Kazakhstan: China-Focused Dating Agency Sparks Anger

Veiled Threat: Mail-Order Kazakh Matchmaker Elicits China Fears

China’s one-child policy and a preference for male children has left the world’s most populous nation in a serious bind: too many bachelors, not enough eligible women.

A curious advertisement popped up on Facebook a few days, appealing to women in Kazakhstan in search of a prospective husband: “An elite group of bachelors is coming to Astana from Beijing to make new friends and to get married. A number of special events are scheduled. The men are monied, have European educations and speak English, and many of them speak Russian. To learn more about these bachelors apply at our agency.”

News website Nur.kz looked into the matter and learned that an Astana company was indeed organizing a four-day trip in February for 15 Chinese unmarried men in search of a bride.

The business model is reminiscent of the kind of bride-hunting expeditions embarked upon by lonesome Western men in parts of the former Soviet bloc.

There is not much parity in the proposed arrangement. While the women, who have to pay 15,000 tenge ($45) to be placed on the agency’s books ($75 for first-time registration), get no say as to who they pair up with, the men may pick and choose. If the women are not picked, they lose their fee.

According to the program outlined by the Astana company, dates are organized for the couples at venues like karaoke bars and bowling alleys, and once a pair is set, they attend a gala dinner. Women then have the option of going to China at the man’s expense from a week to three months so as to acclimatize to the conditions and culture, and to see if they will be able to settle down.

All this has got some armchair patriots up in arms and sent them charging at their keyboards to vent their fury on social media.

Some more enterprising souls even organized a small picket in Astana. A group of protesters hit the streets on January 11 holding up signs with slogans like “Men protect their land, women protect their nation.” Talk of protecting land was a clear reference to the wave of land privatization protests that took place last year — the implied theme at those rallies was that large swaths of Kazakh land might be bought by rapacious Chinese businessman.

Activists angered by the dating agency advert have even called for the government to strip any women involved of their citizenship.

Marriage agencies are a popular business in Kazakhstan. Tatiana Logvinenko, the director of once such company, told Tengri News website that her custom comes mainly from women aged 32 and over. Single women seeking husbands are typically highly educated, self-reliant and employed in good positions, but fated by their lifestyles to being without a family, Logvinenko said.

And why is this?

“If among the men you take out those who are married, alcoholics, drug addicts, gay or in prison, well, in Astana for example, for each free man you will find eight women. And the figures are the same for the whole country,” Logvinenko claimed.

If those figures are anywhere near accurate, it becomes clear why some women might be driven to casting their net wider.

But international dating and marriage services are not cheap. Matching women up with a European bachelors, for example, can cost from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars, with no certainty of success.