A Chinese county's proposal to get women to return to their hometowns to marry has come under fire on social media.
The criticism intensified when local writer Jiang Wenlai promoted it as "operation warm the older men's beds."
People online said the idea objectifies women and reduces them to tools for marriage.
A Chinese social media storm criticizing a local government's proposal to solve declining marriage has flared after a local writer promoted it as "operation warm the older men's beds" to help rural men tie the knot.
The now-infamous article, published by communist party-affiliated news site Red Net, lamented how it's so difficult for local bachelors to find wives that some areas are turning into "singles villages." The writer, Jiang Wenlai, opined that local women aren't interested in living or marrying in poor villages, and this mindset had to be changed.
His idea is based on a recent proposal to solve a "marriage crisis" by the Xiangyin county government in Hunan province. The government wants to discourage local women from moving to the city and instead marry older bachelors in their hometowns, according to local news National Business Daily.
The government laid out four main objectives - a blind-date matchmaking service, simplified paperwork for starting families in villages, more job opportunities that pay well, and propaganda campaigns promoting "marriage and childbearing" while rejecting expensive wedding traditions and gifts.
According to their plan, they want "young women in rural areas to love and build their hometowns" and "work hard to reduce the unbalanced proportion of rural men and women."
Operation warm the older men's beds
The Red Net article took things one step further. Jiang claimed it is "necessary" for society to start "operation warm the older men's beds" to be happier. Failure to do so, the article said, would make the men and their parents miserable.
Social media users blasted the concept. Thousands of comments surfaced on social media platform Weibo criticizing the article and the county government's plans.
"So women can't try to pursue better lives? They have to stay here to be a solution for the men?" said one comment.
"Only slaves warm beds for their masters. Women are human, not slaves," wrote another person.
Another commenter quipped: "If you want to warm a bed, you can just get a hot water bottle instead."
The Xiangyin county government later clarified to Chinese media outlet Red Star News that its proposal had nothing to do with forcing women to stay in their rural hometowns, but instead was about making rural villages more attractive places to settle in.
Last weekend, Jiang responded to criticism of his article in an interview with Chinese news site DongFang Media, saying he was only trying to highlight the challenges rural men faced in getting married. He declined to speak further, per DongFang.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, 8.13 million couples married in 2020, down 40% compared to 2013, reported Nikkei Asia.
More recently, a new study found that almost half of China's young urban women prefer not to get married, reported Insider's Cheryl Teh.
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