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A few days before the Year of the Dragon began, Jiayuan (Beautiful Destiny), China’s largest online dating service, summoned new employees to an orientation meeting at its headquarters, in a Beijing office tower. O., peered at a dozen new hires and informed them that they were now in “the happiness business.” She did not smile.
For one thing, the top ranks of Chinese technology are dominated by men.“We’re not like you foreigners, who make friends easily in a bar or go travelling and chat up a stranger,” she once told me. Our membership has a very clear goal: to get married.” Of all the upheavals in Chinese life in the past three decades, there is perhaps none more intimate than the opportunity to choose one’s mate.For years, village matchmakers and parents, factory bosses and Communist cadres efficiently paired off young people with minimum participation from the bride and groom.Arranged marriages were banned in 1950, but twenty years later, when the anthropologist Yan Yunxiang moved to a village in China’s northeast, local women had so little say regarding whom they married that they sobbed when they left home on their wedding day.It goes by the tagline “The Serious Dating Website.” Gong was in office attire: glasses, ponytail, no makeup, and a pink Adidas jacket with a ragged left cuff.