You can buy pretty much anything on China’s thriving e-commerce sites. I bought my cat on Taobao . And that’s not the only living, breathing companion you can get yourself online. There are a number of dating websites which, operating in a legal grey area, can effectively help Chinese men to purchase a Vietnamese bride. As if that’s not enough, one such website, Ynxn1314.com (pictured above), offers cut-price group buy tour deals. The Groupon-style package means that for just 30,000 to 40,000 RMB (US$4,300 to $6,300), a bunch of the site’s subscribers can take a trip to Vietnam and be connected with attractive local Vietnamese women aged 18 to 25 (pictured above).
It’s a fascinating – if ethically dubious – business, and one that was investigated well by the Global Times earlier today. Match-making across borders for profit is illegal in China, though it’s one of the many areas which are enforced in a lax fashion. The newspaper found that staffers at Ynxn1314 (whose name is an acronym-homonym combo of “Vietnamese wife for a lifetime”) were well aware of the shady legal area the site’s working in:
I know our business is not permitted by the Chinese government, but there is no punishment. Even if we are shut down, the marriages of our clients are still legal.
True enough. But the site’s operators – it feels wrong to term this a “startup” – deny that they have a ‘daily deals’ sort of approach to match-making, and claim to matchmake their clients with care. It says that “more than 80 percent” of its users find brides using the website. Also, all the Vietnamese women who find a suitor enter the country legally.
Crossing the Mekong
Ynxn1314 is based in Kunming, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province, which borders on Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. What it’s doing is not new, and meets a very clear need as much as any other dating website in China, such as Jiayuan (NASDAQ:DATE) or Baihe.
The market it addresses is potentially huge, as China’s traditional preference for male heirs creates a worrying gender imbalance. Some estimates put the disparity in numbers as high as 30 million. That’s a lot of bachelors.
Contrary to some stereotypes of so-called mail-order brides, most of the matches on Ynxn1314 seem age-appropriate, as seen in its gallery of apparently happy matches. It doesn’t always work out for the matches that various marriage agencies make, however, with a number of brides – filled either with fear, remorse, or culture shock – reportedly fleeing back to their homeland.
And so, despite operating on a shady periphery of the Chinese e-commerce scene, such cross-border match-making sites look set to thrive unless the authorities decide to clamp down.
Don’t worry, the cat wasn’t mailed to me. I just reserved a particular cat, and then popped into Shanghai to pick it up. ↩