Divorce in China remains among the lowest in the world, has great impact on children’s futures

By Margot Bernal


A divorce in China used to be very uncommon, unlike other countries, primarily due to its Communist government and the respect that marriage receives in the country. It was very unlikely for Chinese couples to get a divorce, but according to Irene Ginbeiyue, a Chinese student at the Shanghai International Studies University, the divorce of her parents has been one of the hardest challenges she has had to overcome.

According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, China had a huge rise in divorce rates in 2010. However, although the rate for divorces in couples rose, the rates for marriages increased as well. The rise of divorce was nothing too abnormal, since China maintains one of the lower rates of divorce in the world.

Irene Ginbeiyue, a Chinese student at the Shanghai International Studies University, dealt with divorce within her own family. Photo by Margot Bernal

When Irene was 7 years old, her parents got a divorce. She said it was very hard to get used to two different families, since both parents remarried after the split. After her parents’ divorce, her mother gave up the property rights of house. Her mother was no longer able to afford the price of the house due to the high rates of expenses. Irene’s father made much more money, which forced him to pay for many of Irene’s expenses, including her education.

Irene’s father is remarried and has twins now. Irene expressed her concerned for her father dealing with the expenses of three children. The fact that the government is now assisting in paying for her brothers’ education is a relief, but Irene is still concerned of future expenses, she said. She hopes to have a stable job by the time her twin brothers reach their college years and hopes to help with expenses.

“As for my brother’s education expense, we call it compulsory education,” she said. “And everyone must receive nine years of compulsory education. Compulsory education means that government are in duty bound to use public resources to make sure all school-aged children (usually around 7 years old) can accept education.

The education begins with elementary school education. There are three basic principles of compulsory education: enforce, widespread and free. Every school-aged child should accept education by force. It’s our duty also. And the education object has no social class or background discrimination or limit.”

According to Georgiana R. Frayer-Luna, marriage is no longer considered a familial duty in China. Marriage has now become an emotional promise between the couple, when before it used to be an economical arrangement between families. Individual happiness is now very dominant in Chinese marriages.

Irene is now a junior at Shanghai International Studies University, where she plans to get a bachelor’s degree in public relations and hopes to continue with a master’s degree in business management. Irene has been able to manage the divorce very calmly, she explains.

“Even though the divorce really hurts me, my parents are so nice,” she said. “They know it well how they should educate me under divorce conditions. They explain to me that divorce is not anyone’s fault, it’s just because they don’t suit each other well. And they all love me so much, and they are all so proud of me. It gives me lots of support and encouragement.

I am so glad that I have parents like that, so some students may be affected by their parent’s divorce, maybe they will be negative or depressed and it will greatly affect their study, but I won’t do that. I always face it with a positive attitude. So, I do suffer a lot from my parent’s divorce; however, I try hard to conquer it with the help of my parents. Little girl grows up now.”

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