Macquarie University
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International marriage, migration, and demographic reality in mainland China

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posted on 2022-03-29, 01:14 authored by Shenghan Cai
With the implementation of economic reforms, opening-up, and family planning policies, China has experienced profound socioeconomic and cultural changes since the 1970s. One of the significant changes is the increase in the number of people migrating within China and to other countries to pursue better opportunities for employment, education, life style, or marriage. With China’s economic success in recent decades, its internal and international migration has continued to increase while the number of international marriages experienced considerable fluctuation, and sometimes decline, over time. Although international marriage as a social phenomenon in China has attracted much attention, due to the lack of available data, knowledge of international marriage has been fragmented in the existing literature. Using a set of consolidated data of international and domestic marriage registration, supplemented by face-to-face interview data, this thesis investigates the nature of international marriage in mainland China by focusing on demographic reality and life experiences of couples in international marriage. The thesis first analyses the macro mechanisms and diverse geospatial patterns of international marriage in China and charts the connections between internal and international marriage and migration. The thesis then examines the demographic similarities and differentials between two types of marriage choices, and their effects on the formation and solidarity of the union for couples in both domestic and international marriages. The thesis also examines the premium of relative advantage between spouses and gendered differences of marriage choices. In addition, the analysis is supplemented by ethnographical data that provide insights into couples’ personal interpretation of their marriage and divorce, as well as their connections to social and institutional environment. The results suggest that marriage, including international marriage, has been affected by a number of institutional, structural, and individual factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, rural-urban disparities, gender norms, marriage behaviour, socioeconomic status, and personal experiences. Different from conventional understanding, the results from this study suggest that transnational couples experienced lower probability of divorce than couples who share more cultural similarities while younger birth cohorts might have weaker solidarity in both types of marriage. The differences in educational attainment between spouses show no significant effect on the solidarity of international marriage, but age gap does make a difference, marrying a younger husband will increase the risk of divorce. While providing a channel for upward mobility for underprivileged individuals, international marriage also polarises the marriage market by further strengthening hypergamous matches of spouses. The results also show that the nature of international marriage in mainland China nowadays is much more diverse and complex than simple status exchange or pursuit for romantic love


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. One decade of international marriage in China : migration, intimacy, and cultural perspectives, 2000–2010 -- Chapter 3. Gendered patterns and solidarity of the unions : differences between international marriages and domestic marriages in China -- Chapter 4. Social mobility through international marriage and the premium of relative advantages in the marriage market -- Chapter 5. Motivations and choices of international marriages, reflections from case studies -- Chapter 6. Conclusion -- Appendices.


Includes bibliographic references Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Macquarie Business School, Department of Management

Department, Centre or School

Department of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Fei Guo

Additional Supervisor 1

Shuang Liu


Copyright Shenghan Cai 2018. Copyright disclaimer:






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