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Mums on a Mission


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You think you have it bad? Tired of your parents talking up your single status to their friends? Spare a thought for the children of the mums for whom Wednesdays and Sundays launch "please marry my kid" campaigns in Beijing's Temple of Heaven park. And just like political campaigners, they came armed with their best propaganda and sales pitch.

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They lay pictures and CVs on small tables and benches for other parents to peruse. What sort of education? What sort of possessions, skills, hobbies? Marks good? How about your handsome son meeting my talented daughter?

With each other, they were gregarious, insistent. With the strangers looking on, they were considerably more shy. Some didn't want to show pictures of their children. And, as our friend (who we'll call Jen) explained, that's not just because they feel a bit embarrassed.

Sometimes, the son or daughter doesn't know what mom is up to. Jen had no idea her mom had been shopping her around at the park. Her mother claims she stopped when Jen discovered her secret but she's suspicious and still a bit irked. "Marriage is really important," explained one woman, helpfully. Jen's not yet convinced and, approaching 30, says she's worried she'll be considered a "leftover woman".

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Such aggressive and enthusiastic campaigning in this season of global political wrangling somehow seems right but rather wrong here. China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition has enough at stake for an entire nation of 1.3bn to battle loudly and lobby. But, while most suspect they know who will take the top two spots, the rest of the process and the characters who will emerge victorious remain (and will remain) a complete mystery. China demands and likes it that way. The threat that public displays of dissent would create are seen as just too much. 

So campaigning, griping, lobbying are both out of the question and pointless. But if you want your fix of politicking here, for now, it seems best to resort to watching the parks on Wednesday and Sunday--for the mums on a mission.

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