Chinese Church Voices

A Discussion of the Divorce Rate

Chinese Church Voices is a weekly column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

On July 8, Global Times, an English language newspaper in China published an editorial in response to statistics recently released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs on the divorce rate in China. It was only one of numerous editorials and comment pieces examining divorce in China. The Christian Times took a look at some of the commentary, and offered their own opinion. It's an interesting look at a difficult problem that we don't often hear about, as well as a reminder to pray for God to strengthen marriages in China. 

‪A ten-year consecutive rise in China's divorce rate reflects the weakening spirit of the marriage contract

‪A 2014 news segment about the increasing divorce rate has spurred increasing coverage and conversation.

‪Since 2004, our nation has experienced ten consecutive years of a rising divorce rate. In 2012, the divorce rate for the first time surpassed the marriage rate. In 2013 more than 3.5 million couples applied for divorce. After the Ministry of Civil Affairs released these numbers last year numerous media outlets began their own investigations and offered commentary on this phenomenon.

Recently, the online magazine Banyuetan raised the issue in a post titled, “Why China’s Divorce Rate Has Increased for 10 Consecutive Years.” The magazine explored many aspects of the matter, including shifting ideas about divorce, factors that contribute to divorce, and measures to reduce the divorce rate.

‪Today, we often see reports about divorce in the media, highlighting newly married couples that bicker constantly over trivial issues and ultimately choose divorce as their solution. Of course, there are some couples that initiate a fake divorce in order to purchase a second home*, evade taxes, arrange household registration (hukou), or to accomplish other ends. In general, however, most people have assumed an increasingly tolerant and sympathetic attitude toward the concept of divorce.

‪In an interview with Banyuetan, assistant professor Shao Xiaoying of Fudan University’s School of Marxism said that in today’s society, chastity is no longer the only standard of goodness by which women are evaluated, and that women are also no longer bound by the shackles of marriage. The economic independence of women frees them from reliance on their husbands for their livelihood.  “Even if some divorces are not inherently positive, divorce as an option providing more lifestyle choices is understandable," Shao explained.

‪One counselor said, “We marry to live well, however we divorce to live even better.”

Divorce intervention specialists generally do not support the idea of couples simply making do in a bad situation. They believe that if the couples fail to positively face the situation and hard work doesn’t solve their problems, divorce is better; otherwise, the other members of the family will be adversely affected.

‪In contrast to the historically more conservative views of marriage, modern society instead places more importance on quality of  life and a sense of marital happiness. Banyuetan’s research indicates that the current Chinese openness towards sexuality and social media tools for meeting potential lovers has created a culture of premarital cohabitation; these help create the conditions leading to the derailment of marriage.

Many things have served to promote divorce: the impact coming from the clash of city and migrant couples, the capricious and unyielding approach of this one-child-only generation towards marital struggles, people waiting longer to get married, greater convenience and rights protection in divorce cases, as well as a host of other changes.

Faced with the rising divorce rate and family conflict, there is an urgent need for a multifaceted approach that addresses social governance, values orientation, the rebuilding of the family, and related areas. These need to be done via the collaboration of government departments, social organizations and changes to the legal system in order to bring about a solution.

‪Some media commentaries have pointed out that we cannot suggest that today’s marriages are in a place of great danger simply based on the rising divorce rate. They recommend that we also consider the raised expectations for the quality of marriage as well as recognize progress in our basic concepts of marriage.

However we cannot deny a far-reaching negative impact to many couples and especially their children in the face of divorce.

One example is the issue of divorce inheritance. Children of divorced parents are also more likely to divorce and we see higher rates of crime among children of single parent homes. Furthermore, there is statistical evidence of a rise in the youth crime rate, a prevalence of mental illness, and suicide rates seemingly simultaneous to the rise in divorce rates.

‪As to the reasons for divorce, studies have noted that in addition to emotional and other basic issues, the divorce problem seems to indicate that for a portion of society there is a softening attitude toward the marriage contract and a declining sense of moral responsibility towards marriage and the family. This indicates an urgent need for improvement in moral standards within our society. Some people are one-sided in their emphasis on personal happiness and the rights of marital freedom, ignoring the fact that marital life should uphold certain moral and ethical guidelines as well as be approached with proper dedication and duty.

‪In the Bible, marriage is a covenant made by husband and wife before God. The call to commitment is higher than the goal of gaining happiness; self-sacrifice and service are more important than obtaining what we want from the other person.

In light of this ten-year rise in the divorce rate, which highlights the paradoxical pursuit by couples of personal happiness, we see that today’s era of individualism and misconceptions regarding marriage deserves our attention and reflection.

*Some cities in China prohibit one couple from owning more than one home. One way around this is for the couple to obtain a legal divorce, but continue to live together.

For more reaction to the statistics, see:

Social Media is Fueling Rise in China’s Divorce Rate, Lawyer Says (Forbes)

Chinese divorce rates surge in summer months, after school exams (CCTV America)

Original article: 中国离婚率“十连增” 折射婚姻契约精神的淡化 (Christian Times)

Image credit: by Siti Fatimah, via Flickr

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