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In 2010, SARFT—the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television—intervened for the first time to curb dating and love-themed programs in an effort to reassert of the state’s right to control and censor private intimacy in ‘neoliberal’ China.
The official message is clear: the Chinese people need the freedom to love and marry—provided it doesn’t cross the boundary of socialist values.
Although China launched its ‘opening up’ policies in the late 1970s and re-emphasised marriage freedom and gender equality in the 1980 marriage law, the first girl to appear on was still condemned by her family for losing face in public.
The family’s reaction reflected the continuing traditional belief that women belonged in the domestic sphere and should obey their parents in terms of the marriage decision.
Just like yin and yang in traditional Chinese thought, the juxtaposition of neoliberalism and state authoritarianism might seem contradictory, but essentially they complement each other by creating a space for discussion among opinion makers, elite groups, scholars, the media, the government and the masses.
Although no consensus has been reached, the process has enabled the nation to discuss, debate and further comprehend what love and marriage means in today’s China—and to negotiate a balance for the future.
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Despite its limitations, the show signified another ‘great leap forward’, revolutionising the way marriage-seeking was conducted in China.For singles, they are a platform for seeking potential spouses.