BEIJING – China’s low birth rate problems have been further complicated by the high prices charged for traditional dowries by the families of potential brides. Chinese social media platforms have recently been stunned by the price a groom’s family was asked to pay, even leading to the story being censored by the authorities.

The engaged couple in question saw their brief engagement collapse after the bride’s family asked for $ 163,000 for the privilege of marrying their daughter. Due to lack of financial resources, the couple was forced to disband.

“I always thought that brides overpricing were stories that only existed on the Internet until it happened to my own family,” reads the opening line in what was one of the site’s most popular articles. The writer’s cousin fell in love with a woman from Jiangxi province.

A Chinese bride wearing a traditional red wedding dress observes her city before the wedding ceremony.
(Fox Digital News)

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The article went viral and received around 22 million views, with many of the comments congratulating the groom and his family for avoiding terrible in-laws.

People react as they take photos of their wedding near the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 15, 2021.

People react as they take photos of their wedding near the Forbidden City in Beijing on March 15, 2021.
(REUTERS / Tingshu Wang)

The dowry tradition of giving gifts to the bride’s family has existed for hundreds of years in China, and although a 1950 law prohibited forced marriages and any form of property claims, the custom has largely remained in place.

China’s substantial demographic imbalance was one of the causes of the rising costs. The Communist nation ended its one-child policy in 2015 and has since produced a surplus of around 34 million men, as many families preferred to have a son rather than a daughter. In many areas, the average bride price can easily be five times the average annual disposable income, and financial pressures have led to it becoming a problem for Chinese authorities.

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With a population of around 1.4 billion people, China continues to be the most populous nation in the world. However, with birth rates declining for years, it is estimated to hit an all-time low this year, falling below 10 million from last year’s 10.6 million births. Additionally, China’s fertility rate of 1:16 in 2021 was below the OECD 2: 1 standard for a stable population.

A groom lifts a cloth covering his bride's face during a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony in Beijing on May 15, 2004. Some young people in China are returning to their roots for more traditional weddings and moving away from the Western-style ceremonies that had gained popularity. .

A groom lifts a cloth covering his bride’s face during a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony in Beijing on May 15, 2004. Some young people in China are returning to their roots for more traditional weddings and moving away from the Western-style ceremonies that had gained popularity. .
(REUTERS / Wilson Chu WC)

To combat low growth rates, Chinese authorities have recently introduced numerous measures to encourage couples to have more children, including extended maternity leave and other financial incentives. Beijing has also established a 30-day cooling off period for couples who want to divorce. However, willingness to have more children is among the lowest in the world. According to the Chinese government, excessive brides prices are yet another obstacle for young people to start having a family.

Recently, local authorities have implemented numerous rules to curb excessive brides prices. In September, national authorities also decided to take action when they announced a nationwide test campaign to “promote a set of standards” and strict regulation on “vulgar standards”. The campaign will run until the end of the year.

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Mom-to-be Li Zhao, 35, chooses baby products at a store in Beijing on October 30, 2015. Li Zhao, an employee who is six months pregnant, said the one-child policy is cruel because having a baby is a fundamental civil right.  However, she doesn't want to have a second child for personal reasons.  China has dissolved its one-child policy, for decades a symbol of invasive and coercive government planning, but the change has been met with a disinterested shrug by many younger couples.

Mom-to-be Li Zhao, 35, chooses baby products at a store in Beijing on October 30, 2015. Li Zhao, an employee who is six months pregnant, said the one-child policy is cruel because having a baby is a fundamental civil right. However, she doesn’t want to have a second child for personal reasons. China has dissolved its one-child policy, for decades a symbol of invasive and coercive government planning, but the change has been met with a disinterested shrug by many younger couples.
(REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Reuters recently reported that China’s National Health Commission said COVID-19 also contributed to the decline marriage and birth rate of the country.

The Reuters report continued that demographers also said so China’s uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy. to promptly suffocate any outbreaks with rigorous checks on people’s lives may have caused profound and lasting damage to their desire to have children.

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Reuters contributed to this report.

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