NüVoices Podcast #98: A Conversation with Monica Liu on her book, “E-mail Order Brides Under China’s Global Rise”

This week, NüVoices host Solarina Ho speaks with sociologist and assistant professor Monica Liu about
her new book, Seeking Western Men: Email-Order Brides under China’s Global Rise, which explores the
phenomenon of global internet dating and cross-border marriages, partiularly among middle-aged,
divorced women in China. She discusses the grievances women in China have with society and their own
failed marriages, and why some believe a better life exists through this route. But reality is often very
different. Liu explains why, and how the experiences of these women challenge scholars and others to
rethink conventional notions of race and class. She also shares her experiences as an academic doing
research in China and how that has evolved over the last decade.

About Seeking Western Men:
Commercial dating agencies that facilitate marriages across national borders comprise a $2.5 billion global industry. Ideas about the industry are rife with stereotypes—younger, more physically attractive brides from non-Western countries being paired with older Western men. These ideas are more myth than fact, Monica Liu finds in Seeking Western Men. Her study of China’s email-order bride industry offers stories of Chinese women who are primarily middle-aged, divorced, and proactively seeking spouses to fulfill their material and sexual needs. What they seek in their Western partners is tied to what they believe they’ve lost in the shifting global economy around them. Ranging from multimillionaire entrepreneurs or ex-wives and mistresses of wealthy Chinese businessmen, to contingent sector workers and struggling single mothers, these women, along with their translators and potential husbands from the US, Canada, and Australia, make up the actors in this multifaceted story. Set against the backdrop of China’s global economic ascendance and a relative decline of the West, this book asks: How does this reshape Chinese women’s perception of Western masculinity? Through the unique window of global internet dating, this book reveals the shifting relationships of race, class, gender, sex, and intimacy across borders.

About Monica Liu:
Monica Liu received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California – San Diego and she is
currently Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of St. Thomas – Minnesota. Her research
examined global internet dating and cross-border marriages between women from China and men from
Western countries. Her work has appeared in academic journals such as Men and Masculinities,
Qualitative Sociology, and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Her monograph, Seeking
Western Men: Email-Order Brides under China’s Global Rise (Stanford University Press) was published in 2023. Born and raised in China by her grandparents, Monica immigrated to Boston at the age of eight.
Before joining the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, she lived in Seattle, Beijing, NYC, San Diego,
and Tampa. Follow her on Twitter!

About Solarina Ho:
Solarina Ho is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 15 years of journalism experience, most of
which was spent at one of the world’s largest and oldest news agencies, Reuters. She currently writes
on a broad range of health, general, and business news for various publications and organizations, with
a particular focus on COVID-19. Her personal areas of interest include topics related to China, women’s
issues, media/journalism, immigration, the environment, space exploration, technology, and pop culture
(with a particular weakness for Asian dramas).

Recommendations and Shownotes:

  • Barack Obama’s A Promised Land
  • Never Have I Ever on Netflix
  • Self-care tips: Work out 30 minutes daily no matter what (while watching a Netflix show) and getting enough sleep!