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Alone but Not Lonely
More of the youth enjoy single life
By Lu Yan | Web Exclusive

Shopping, running, dancing, hanging out with friends…Wei Meng, 26, a marketing specialist, has a lot on her plate in her spare time. Being single for more than two years after an exhausting breakup, Wei has never felt freer and happier.


"Sometimes on weekends, I just nest on my sofa, drinking coffee and reading a book. Life is so cozy, isn't it? " Wei said with a big grin, "but when I was in a relationship, I could hardly do that."


Wei is no special case, as more young people in China, especially in big cities, enjoy single life.


According to statistics released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, by the end of 2015, the number of single people had reached 200 million, and more people were willingly to be single.


The single group is largely formed by college students and white collars, who pay a great deal of attention to improving their quality of life and self-improvement. "Compared to girls with a boyfriend, I feel that I can live my life according to my own pace, have more time to study whatever I like, and embrace myself," Wei said. "Now I read four books a month on average, instead of one when I was in a relationship."


"Girls are independent, and we can do things for ourselves. You don't need a boyfriend to do things for you. Besides, when I'm single, I'm not confined to just one person. I have more chance to meet new people, maybe better ones. My options are open," said Yuki Li, 23, a graduate student in Manchester, shrugging her shoulders.


Her view echoes with Zachary Sun, businessman and author of the book To My Ex: Smart Is the New Sexy. "If I want to feed pigeons in London, I can order a ticket and pack up right now. If I want to drink beer and chat with my buddies, I can make the call myself without asking for permission. If I want peace and quiet, I can just turn off my phone without any worries," he noted.


"It is a progress that young people enjoy more freedom, become more independent, and are no longer bound by familial duties of getting married and having children too young," said Zheng Lu, associate professor at the Department of Sociology of Tsinghua University.


Some media suggest that "the Fourth Single's Wave" is arriving in China. However, Zheng sees it differently. "I don't find any convincing data analysis that demonstrates the so-call 'wave'. If the previous three waves were true, we would have been surrounded by a lot of old or middle-aged singles by now, which is perhaps not the case," Zheng said.


According to Zheng, people may stay single for a long time before getting married; the divorced or widowed can enter marriage again. Most people can be single for a period of their adult lives. More importantly, marriage as a social institution has changed a lot in its meaning and importance over time. People, for various reasons, may be unmarried while living with a quite stable partner or even raising children.


"The society has become more tolerant and open to alternative ways of living," Zheng added.


Copyedited by Dominic James Madar


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