1992 / 10月
Jackie Chen /tr. by Christopher Hughes
Who goes to mainland China to get married? What are the special characteristics of such people?
Research undertaken by Chen Kuan-cheng, a researcher at Academia Sinica's Sun Yat-sen Institute for Social Sciences and Philosophy, points out that those who go from Taiwan to mainland China to get married are mostly males from families with roots in Chinese provinces other than Taiwan. Over 80 percent of these people get married to women from the same town as that from which their own families originated. The proportion of marriages between people whose families go back to the same province, county or city is correspondingly high, which could well be linked with the activity of going back to visit relatives or introductions arranged through the parental generation.
Research also reveals a high rate of older grooms marrying younger brides in cross-strait marriages. This can be compared with the age differences in marriages between natives of Taiwan province, where the gap between bride and groom is on average 10 years, while in cross-strait matchings it is 20 years. The gap in levels of education in cross-strait matchings is also comparatively large with that of women being higher than men--a phenomenon of "marrying up."
Chen Kuan-cheng points out that most people select a marriage partner according to a pattern of regular rules, such as the age of the man, his degree of education, and social and economic status all being comparatively high. This is certainly not due to legal or contractual regulations, but rather just the informal result of agreements reached between people.
At times these rules can change, with population movements, the degree of women's education, and the structure of employment being important factors in altering the comparative ages and other elements between the two sexes. If cross-strait marriages differ from the norm, this should be related to the movement of people over the Strait in the past few years.
Partners or maids?: Some people think that men from Taiwan get married to in mainland China because the women of Taiwan are too "demanding."
One man, who has married a wife "like flowers and jade" in Taiwan, thinks that following the raising of economic and educational standards women do not put the traditional stress on obedience, virtue and being wives who depend on and revere their husbands. It is because of this that the men of Taiwan go to mainland China to find wives. "Taiwanese women should take a good look at themselves," he says with an all-too-obvious logic.
Chiu Chang, a lawyer with a good understanding of the affairs and situation in mainland China, condemns such thinking, asking, "Do they want to find a partner to share their life or a maid?"
There are also those who are critical of what they see as an extension of the chauvinistic, paternal attitudes held by men in Taiwan. One organizer of a women's group asks how such attitudes differ from those of the American soldiers who used to come to Taiwan and marry young women.
Yet there are also people who express sympathy and think that men who go to mainland China to find a bride are mostly members of a "tribe" who are unable to find marriage partners in Taiwan.
With access to a lot of information concerning cross-strait marriages, Chen Kuan-cheng says this is not necessarily so, maintaining, "The important point is that these people want to go to the mainland to find a better partner." According to his samples, the rate of cross-strait marriages for members of weak groups, such as fishermen, is not high.
Is love the answer?: Another special characteristic of cross-strait marriages is that the period for the two sides to get to know each other is very short. Most get married very quickly in what could be called "instant" marriages.
With marriages built on this kind of foundation, in addition to the present disparities between the political and economic situations across the Strait, what kind of problems can arise? Because those people who got married in the mainland and then came to Taiwan have only been living here together for a short time, it is hard to say at present. However, Liu Peng-chun, deputy commissioner of the Entry and Exit Service Bureau, who has received and seen off all kinds of people from mainland China, is not optimistic.
Liu says that the cases of children and old people who have been the first to come over from the Chinese mainland can be used for reference. Of course, some of these people have been very happy to be in Taiwan, but there have also been many who cannot adjust very well. "At first people would come to find me concerning problems about how their mothers could stay here, but only one mother has actually stayed," he says.
Last month Liu received a letter from a grandfather who on no account wanted the Entry and Exit Service Bureau to allow his grandchildren to enter Taiwan. "My first thoughts were too good," wrote the embittered septuagenarian. "I never thought the bearing of the Chinese Communists could be so powerful as to teach my grandchildren to be such unmanageable people." According to Liu's contacts, such cases are common.
Can the power of love prove stronger? We can only wait for time to tell.