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'The Chinese family is getting smaller and smaller and so the pressure on young women today is huge,’ says the social historian Simon Gjeroe.
'There’s a very large older population in China that by sheer weight of numbers is winning the pressure war.
That’s right: in China, if you're 30, female and single, you’re considered well and truly on the shelf.
'I always dread Chinese New Year,’ says Yang Ziyang, a 32-year-old talent agent earning in excess of one million RMB (£100,000) a year, 'because that’s when my extended family come over to the house and they all want to know why I’m not married yet.
Meanwhile, their grandparents – many of whom can still remember mass famine – are piling on the expectations, too.
They are keen not only to see their granddaughters marry well (traditionally the only route to financial security) but also, mindful that the country has no social safety net, to have a large family to look after them in old age.
Her research suggests that it’s the constant pestering from families that is causing successful women in their late twenties to make major sacrifices.
But by then you only have two or three years before you’re branded a shengnu.If you don’t manage it within that small window of time they worry and fuss.It’s ridiculous.’ 'There’s no question that a lot of women rush into marriage with the wrong person,’ says Leta Hong Fincher, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Tsinghua University in Beijing.But I know they’re just worried,’ she says, hinting at the other big issue at play.'Because I’m an only child it’s harder, as they are relying a lot on me.’ Women born under China’s one-child policy, introduced in 1979, face enormous pressures to succeed academically from parents whose own aspirations were thwarted under the Mao regime.