If You Are the One: China’s TV Dating Shows and Sheng Nü’s Predicament

Document Type


Presentation Date

Summer 6-19-2013

Conference Name

11th International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Conference Location

Eȍtvȍs Loránd Univeristy, Budapest, Hungary.


This study looks into the TV dating reality shows in postmillennial China. These widely popular shows, exemplified by Fei Cheng Wu Rao (translated as If You Are the One), open up an ongoing social forum, which, to varying extents, enables the self-expressions of a particular group of Chinese women (young, educated, upper-middle class) while excluding the voices of those falling behind the selected categories. Through the lens of critical discourse analysis, I focus on analyzing the women participants’ self-introductions, their verbal exchanges with the male participants, and the remarks of the host and the two expert commentators. I argue that the dating shows simultaneously reflect and deflect the predicament of Chinese single women, the so-called “sheng nü” (“leftover women”), who strive for upward social mobility yet face the dilemma of adopting the traditional gender roles of the wife and the mother. I further posit that the shows tag single women negatively and disseminate bias toward single womanhood. Ultimately, my analysis reveals that the dating shows become a social disempowering mechanism that repositions women along China’s new social and gender hierarchies and reinforces male privilege in postsocialist China.


TV dating shows, reality shows, Chinese sheng nü (“leftover women”), single womanhood, postsocialist gender ideologies



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