In many parts of China, caili, or the betrothal dowry a man gives to his bride’s family, can sometimes be a heavy financial burden.
So it’s no surprise that a bank in Jiangxi province began advertising a “caili loan” last week. The illustration in the ad shows a young couple leaning back-to-back – her in a veil, him in a face mask. They are well-dressed, modern and clearly in love. The slogan above reads: “Don’t worry about caili expenses, borrowing will bring happiness and stability.”
The loan clearly targets young executives. Anyone 22 or older with more than 12 months of full-time work experience is offered up to Rmb300,000 ($46,150) on an annual interest rate of 4.9%. The money can be used for a honeymoon, a new car, wedding jewellery or white goods, Jiujiang Bank said.
As the cost of tying the knot has risen in recent years, other Chinese lenders have come up with wedding-related loans.
However, Jiujiang Bank was the first to link a consumer loan directly with caili, a custom that looks increasingly awkward for many younger Chinese.
Worse, the gimmick also appears to go against a policy push from banking regulators to curb excessive lending to young consumers.
State broadcaster CCTV criticised the new loan saying it “promotes an outdated custom”, and Beijing Youth Daily said banks should not be allowed to “speculate on the points of pain in our society”.
Should it become a common practice, the new form of consumer loan will only drive up the price of caili, Securities Times also noted.
Indeed, in rural areas where people tend to stick more strictly to traditions, the cost of caili has already risen dramatically in recent years as the number of men of marriageable age has far outnumbered the population of single women – in part a legacy of the One-Child Policy and a cultural preference for boys.
At the same time the government is trying to find ways to promote more marriage and increase the number of children being born.
Some local governments have issued edicts capping the amount of caili a bride’s family can demand in rural areas, because it can exceed the groom’s annual salary many times over, pushing some families back into poverty. Since January 1 a new Civil Code also made it illegal to extract money or gifts for marriage.
However, the practice continues. According to a recent post on Zhihu, average caili prices in Jiangxi came in at about Rmb150,000.
The most expensive province for dowries was Fujian which averaged Rmb300,000.
Under pressure from all sides Jiujiang Bank has since said it has withdrawn the offending advertisement and has also claimed it never actually made the loan.
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