China's plunging birth rate is one social issue affecting the world's most populous country – and so and a growing number of complaints about the difficulty in finding Mr. or Ms. Right.
So a number of universities in China have launched dating and relationships courses, which have become a hit with students.
According to statistics released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, approximately 9.27 million marriages were registered in China in 2019, down 8.5 per cent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the marriage rate was 6.6 marriages per 1000 people, down 0.7 per 1000 people from the previous year, the lowest since 2013.
At Wuhan University of Technology, more than 1600 graduate students have opted for the "Love and Marriage, Workplace and Personality" elective course, a figure far higher than other general elective courses.
In fact, the number of students who attended this course due to its fame far outnumbered the official figure.
"We explore what kind of workplace and what kind of love people with different personalities will encounter in the 'Love and Marriage, Workplace and Personality' classes, which are more targeted and more practical than the Love Psychology' courses I also offer," says teacher Zhang Xiaowen at Wuhan University of Technology.
The online segments accompanying Zhang's two courses also enjoy wide popularity. Over a million people have subscribed to the classes since they were made available online four years ago on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a national studying platform that offers various courses recorded in Chinese universities.
Among them, "Love and Marriage, Workplace and Personality" ranked among the top three most popular courses on the platform, while Zhang was awarded the title of outstanding teacher in 2017.
As early as 2007, Beijing Normal University introduced the "Intimate Relationship and Self-Growth" course, which was in high demand with students. Similarly, in 2013, East China Normal University launched a "Marriage and Love" course, which also became a hit among its students.
Meanwhile, the elective course "Love Psychology" provided by Zhengzhou Normal University in 2015 was over-booked at the time of its launch.
Chen Wan, a graduate student at Wuhan University who took the courses on love, believes that courses concerning marriage can not only satisfy students' curiosity on this topic but also alleviate growing anxiety over the idea of marriage.
From Chen's point of view, recent years have seen a rising number of media reports about infidelity and domestic violence, resulting in more people becoming sceptical about love and marriage. This anxiety also affects college students, which may explain the high popularity of love and marriage courses on campuses, according to Chen.
Zhang believes that anxiety over love and marriage can be attributed to the development of the internet. From Zhang's perspective, spending less time online and more time interacting with the real world can be an effective method for young people to lead a happy life.