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Why Divorce Is on the Rise in China

By ⋅ Feb 24, 2016

According to a recent article in The Economist, marriage is alive and well in China. So is divorce. From 1994 to 2004 the number of couples divorcing per year more than doubled. China’s divorce rate now stands at 2.7 per thousand people; higher than European countries and fast approaching the United States, which is still the most divorce-prone country in the world.

With the liberalization of divorce laws in 2003, the process of splitting up has become much less complicated. The social stigma associated with divorce has also diminished. The Economist places China “among the cheapest and easiest places to get a divorce.”

Of the myriad factors behind the collapse of marriages, these reasons stand out:

  1. Urbanization has resulted in many couples being separated as both spouses pursue careers in different cities. With more opportunities to interact with those of the opposite sex, both on the job and socially, these separated spouses are more likely to be drawn into extramarital affairs.
  2. Traditional values have given way to new views on relationships.
  3. Women are becoming better educated and are more aware of their rights.
  4. Greater affluence allows for financial independence, lessening the incentive to get married and introducing a potential source of friction for those who do marry.
  5. The “one child” phenomenon has exacerbated the pressure posed by multiple older relatives interfering in the lives of their children or grandchildren, resulting in more “parent-driven” divorces.

Divorces among Christian couples unfortunately follow the trend of the larger society, with the same factors figuring prominently in the breakdown of marriages.

According to one observer who has worked with hundreds of couples, a lack of attention to the emotional component in relationships is also to blame. This is due in part to the busyness of many career-focused couples in China’s cities, as well as a rational approach to problem solving that may work well in the office but falls flat at home. Helping couples recognize the importance of this missing component, and then to find in Christ the emotional resources needed to love one another, is essential for building the marriage and overcoming the odds in China’s rapidly changing marital landscape.

For more on marriage and divorce in China see:

Image credit: Broken Heart 294/366 by Dennis Skley via Flickr. 
Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio