China's 'Leftover Women' Desperate to Find Mr. Right

American author Joy Chen champions educated, single career girls.

ByABC News
July 10, 2013, 5:00 PM

July 11, 2013— -- Joy Chen is a superstar in China, the champion of young women known as "leftovers" -- those who are still single in their mid-20s and scorned by all.

"Their value is derived from their marital status," Chen told "Women who are married are normal; those who are unmarried are abnormal."

Chen is the author of "Do Not Marry Before Age 30," a pop culture bestseller that offers dating advice and strives to help women reach their full potential. The book is a latest sensation among a new class of working women in China, some of the best educated in the world.

"There is a deep insecurity among women if they are not married: How are they going to live and survive," said Chen, a Chinese-American who once served as deputy mayor of Los Angeles.

"When you reach 25 and 26, no one wants you anymore," she said of the attitude. "You are no longer beautiful and no longer loved and lose your value as a human being.

"One woman told me she was a leftover at 22," she said. "It's really hard for Americans to imagine that kind of pressure. And it comes from all directions -- from parents, from colleagues at work, everyone you meet in a business capacity and socially."

Her new bilingual eBook, part memoir, part self-help guide, was originally written in English. The Chinese government commissioned and published the book, initially in Chinese, promoting it through the state media to help the women find husbands.

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"It's empowering to let women know they don't have to get married to have a role of importance in society," said Chalsa Loo, a clinical psychologist from Honolulu with an expertise in gender and in ethnic diversity.

"This kind of patriarchal mentality is not exclusive to China," she said. "You look at the different terms in the West. Why is a single woman an 'old maid' and a single man is an 'eligible bachelor'?"

Chen called her book "funny and friendly," a cross between Gloria Steinem and "Sex in the City." Women have been flocking by the thousands to her speaking engagements.

Last year, the All-China Women's Federation named Chen "Woman of the Year."

"It's more of a guide on how to be happy and confident in your own life -- how to love yourself," she said of the book.

But it also includes techniques she learned while working as a global headhunter after her stint in city government.

Chen said she had been dating since she was 18, but didn't marry until she was 38. Now, she gives advice learned from the pitfalls of her own dating years to young career women looking for confidence -- and Mr. Right.

Today, at 43, she is the mother of two children and splits her time between California and China, where she writes a column for the Wall Street Journal and the fashion media.