Valentine's Day Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Valentine's Day Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Finding a spouse is clearly not as straightforward as it once was in China. There are now nearly 200 million single adults – almost 15% of the population according to 2015 Ministry of Civil Affairs figures – and this number has skyrocketed from just 6% in 1990.

According to 2016 National Bureau of Statistics data, there are 30 million more males than females in China and state media, in an apparent attempt to encourage marriage, has in recent years started to stigmatize any women over 27-year-olds and single by referring to them as ‘leftover woman”. While online dating, the global modern-day answer to courting, has proven popular in China, with the PRC’s biggest such app, Momo, receiving up to 23 million active users a day, women have often said they feel harassed on such sites because of the disproportionate user gender imbalance.

In 2015, gender breakdowns for dating apps revealed that up to ten times more males than females were subscribers and when women users started to openly complain of a hostile online atmosphere that some said was akin to “stalking”, Momo user numbers plummeted by 50%.

Dating app Tantan is trying to combat this by protecting women users with tailored match making, safeguards against inappropriate content and light-hearted female-centric online games and says such measures have kept its male to female ratio to approximately 6:4.

Tantan, often referred to as a Chinese Tinder, is a location-based app where users swipe the profile pictures of people recommended to them, right to like and left to skip. Users are matched only after profile images and personal information is checked manually to ensure their authenticity and conversation begins only when both users reply with like swipes.

If a male user sends any suspect content or makes overt sexual references, an automatic notification is sent to the female asking if she has been harassed. If she says yes, the male’s account is deleted. To date, the abuse reporting rate on Tantan is less than 1%.

Tantan founder and CEO Yu Wang, says the app is now responsible for nearly a billion swipes per day and 200 swipes per person. From these 200 swipes, a man will “like” approximately 100 of them while a girl will usually “like” only 10. With such a marked difference in gender user habits, Wang feels that traditionally the online arena has been tough environment for a woman who is hoping to find a long term relationship.

Yet Tantan’s daily active user numbers have increased, says Wang, from 60,000 in 2014 to 5 million today and this is down to the increased sense of security that women feel.

“What a guy and a girl wants might be vastly different,” says Wang. “So if there are way more men than women, it is going to be hard for a woman to find real love and commitment.” Wang says women are not just happy to send time on Tantan but are actually finding long partners via the site. “These days there are always people coming to thank me for providing the platform where they find their better half,” said Wang. “And that’s our goal. To help people fall in love.”

According to Trustdata, Tantan is now the second most popular dating app in China after Momo.