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Meanwhile, the country's 1980 marriage law codified, for the first time, freedom to marry and gender equality.However, even in the wake of political change and globalization, many families still held the traditional Chinese belief that women, unlike men, belonged in the home, and that their parents had the final say over whom they could marry.In many ways, dating shows became a powerful way to facilitate these changes.By looking at the development of Chinese television dating shows, we can see how love and marriage changed from a ritualized system mired in the past to the liberated, Western-style version we see today.Its emphasis on finding partners for men was a testament to China's unbalanced sex ratio, caused by a combination of China's One Child Policy and advances in ultrasound technology in the 1980s that allowed pregnant women to abort millions of baby girls. Male candidates introduced themselves and their family's background, listed their criteria for a spouse and answered a few questions from the host.It was essentially a singles ad broadcast before audience members, who, if interested, could contact the candidate for a date.For single people, they're a platform for seeking potential spouses; for fans, they're the subject of gossip and dissection; for the cultural elites, they're a topic for derision; and for the government, they're a target for surveillance.

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But China's 1978 "Open Door Policy," which transitioned the country from a rigid, centrally planned economy to a global, market-based economy, exposed the Chinese people to an array of outside cultural influences.Despite all the limitations, the show was a groundbreaking depiction of courtship.It took decisions about love and marriage from the private home to the very public domain of broadcast TV.Marriage matchmaking has always been an important cultural practice in China.

For generations, marriage was arranged by parents who followed the principle of "matching doors and windows," which meant that people needed to marry those of similar social and economic standing.

For Chinese romance, this was its own "great leap forward."By the early 1990s, Chinese TV networks found themselves in fierce competition with one another.

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