Matchmaker, matchmaker, make her a match ...

Wan Lixin
While commercial dating services should be subject to the strictest regulation, a dating service could be taken over and operated as a social good.
Wan Lixin

Well, somebody has to arrange the matches,

Young people can't decide these things themselves.

– Musical "Fiddler on the Roof"

That sentiment is still authentic today, even in a metropolis like Shanghai, a city of just under 30 million people, mostly strangers to each other.

Thus the recent sensation about the on-the-spot "Wang Po's matchmaking" in Henan Province has resonated with many lonely youths, who are advocating similar initiatives in their own cities of abode.

In a circular responding to such advocacy, the local Tongling government in Anhui Province said it was considering setting up a "marriage market" in Cuihu Park, "in light of coordination with relevant entities, and following the creation of relevant service infrastructure."

The difficulty of finding one's better half is a problem afflicting people both in rural and urban areas.

Although there have been a host of profit-driven commercial matchmaking services, some of them are plying a prosperous, yet suspicious, trade, exacting exorbitant fees without providing the promised services in good faith.

Many such entities get away with their greed and fraudulent practices because most of their victims, fearing exposure will be compromising, are reluctant to come forward with their grievances.

There is little need to understate the need for facilitating contacts among youths with a view to marriage.

As one netizen observed, "Youths are having a hard time making a livelihood and settling down. Making it easier for them in marriage is a blessing to all of society, and a benevolent act in the highest degree. "

My quite limited experience speaks volumes for the need for such facilitation.

While walking in a park a few years ago, a stranger accosted me abruptly. He was an editor at the city's largest automotive company, and after exchanging some pleasantries, the gentleman near retirement began to reveal to me, a stranger, the difficulty of finding a match for his daughter, who had a good education and a job, but was already well beyond the best age for attachment.

I wracked my brains in scrutinizing my resources of eligibility, and subsequently suggested a candidate for the daughter, though it did not lead to anything.

You can well imagine the anxiety and despair of a father turning to a stranger for such a delicate issue.

It is not an easy task.

It would be more complicated when the anxious parents and their affected children, while ostensibly moving towards the general objective of marital bliss, have differences regarding strategy.

For instance, sometimes the parents are so exuberant in their enthusiasm that their children resort to disobedience.

A couple of years ago a father in Xinjiang entrusted me to find a Mr Right for his daughter, a college graduate in her late 20s who used to work for a major consulting firm in Shanghai.

After contacting some friends who might help, three potential candidates were suggested, all to no avail. One police officer was dismissed as too candid. Two others were disqualified as inadequate in their education.

I began to find it annoying that while I thought I was doing something gratis for her, the supposed beneficiary seemed to entertain the notion she was obliging me, doing me a favor, and was rather condescending.

So when the father pressed again early this year, I suggested that I could refer her to a small, informal dating service run by a former colleague of mine.

The father seemed to be euphoric, and was very effusive about my scheme, but after I had already contacted my ex-colleague for the arrangement, I got the message that the "daughter doesn't agree to this form of service," without elaborating why.

While commercial dating services should be subject to the strictest regulation, with the heaviest penalty meted out in the case of shady trade or downright scams, the need for such services is genuine, and this issue could be taken over and operated as a social service.

As a matter of fact, there has already been salutary progress in some areas.

Since 2023, following appeals from local residents, "marriage market" has been planned or set up in Urumqi in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Yan'an in Shaanxi Province, and Gaoping in Shanxi Province, among others.

One "marriage market" launched under the auspices of the Pingliang Women's Federation, in Pingliang, Gansu Province, for instance, turned out to be an online and offline service.

The interested youths would first submit their personal data to a platform, where a specialist would be responsible for making potential matches, and for tracking their subsequent interactions. Meanwhile, the submitted personal data would also be displayed at the "marriage market."

I do not think lonely youths would object to paying a modest service fee so long as the information was verifiable, the desire for partnership was genuine and in good faith and, not least of all, the relevant personal information could be duly protected without trepidation about possible abuse.

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