MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

In China, the divorce rate has doubled in the past decade. Now, one in every five Chinese marriages ends in divorce.

As NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing, the latest trend is lightning weddings, which often end in equally fast divorces.

(Soundbite of soap opera, "Chinese-Style Divorce")

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of woman crying)

LOUISA LIM: Six years ago, one of China's most popular soap operas was called�"Chinese-Style Divorce." It was the tale of a struggling couple, wracked by financial stresses and misunderstandings which were never addressed. The cracks in their relationship grew into a gulf, then it fell apart. Six years on, that's not the story of today's Chinese-style divorces. This is.

Ms. CHENG: (Through translator) We'd known each other three weeks when we went to get a wedding certificate. We were married for six months. We got married in a hurry and we got divorced in a hurry. It was like a war broke out. We argued, divorce was mentioned, so we got divorced.

LIM: The story of this 24-year-old, who will only give her name as Cheng, is typical of the new trend: lightning weddings and equally sudden divorces. Sitting at an outdoor coffee shop, Cheng is eye-catching in her brown shorts and her knee-length black stiletto boots. She's thought a lot since her divorce. She partly blames it on being part of the generation of spoiled singletons, known in China as the post-'80s generation.

Ms. CHENG: (Through translator) Marriage requires forgiveness, understanding, tolerance and compromise.�Yet, we post-'80s generation neglect this entirely. No one will compromise.�We just argue. Of all my friends who are married, 100 percent are unhappy.

LIM: So, is the only child generation too selfish for marriage, I ask? Her answer is telling. Next time I'll look for a husband with siblings. The figures seem to bear this out. Divorces last year were up 8.8 percent. Statistics from one Beijing district court last year showed 97 percent of the post-'80s couples filing for divorce are only children. It's a pattern that's familiar to anyone working in marital counseling in China.

Mr. SHU XIN (Founder, Weiqing Divorce Club): (Speaking Chinese)

LIM: Shu Xin is the founder of Weiqing Divorce Club, a divorce counseling business. He counseled one couple who fell out over what furniture they should buy for their new flat. They decided to file for divorce just one week after getting married. But Shu Xin believes the root causes are deeper, involving emotional and financial calculations.

Mr. SHU XIN: (Through translator) This generation is very self-centered, very independent. And they have high expectations as to cost and return. They think, I've paid out, so you have to love me.

LIM: In cases where the couple have children, sometimes that cold pragmatism combined with the one-child policy builds into custody disputes. But there's a twist. In a surprising number of cases, that precious only child is unwanted, says divorce counselor Ming Li.

Ms. MING LI (Divorce Counselor): Often neither of them want the child. They want to remarry and have another child to give stability to the new marriage. It's very selfish. That makes up about a third of all cases we see of the post-'80s generation.

LIM: Thirty-one-year-old Li Xuefeng's mission is to make life a little happier for those struggling through a divorce. He's the founder of Happy Divorce Village, an online club which organizes events for those who've been divorced. He's heard a lot of stories. He believes�the cosseted young find it difficult to cope on their own; and in this materialistic world, few can resist the temptation to trade up.

Mr. LI XUEFENG (Founder, Happy Divorce Village): (Through translator) They think about coming home, and nobody is making supper for them. And then they throw their clothes on the floor, and nobody washes them, and so they start arguing over little things. Then they look around, and wonder whether if so-and-so might be better than their current spouse.

(Soundbite of karaoke singing)

LIM: I can't forget you, he sings at this karaoke gathering for divorcees. If the experts are right, their numbers will soar in the years ahead. It may be hard to believe, but there is an upside to all of this. Until eight years ago, a married couple needed permission from their work unit to divorce, and many stayed in unhappy relationships for decades, scared of social ostracism. Unlike their parents' generation, young Chinese dare to fall in and out of love; they're reveling in these newfound freedoms, even the freedom to divorce.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

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