China Hopes Love Letters Scratch Couples’ ’7-Year Itch’

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Can a love letter written in the height of newlywed bliss save a marriage down the road?

The Chinese government hopes so, and it’s betting a national campaign on it in hopes of stemming the populous country’s rising divorce rates.

Under the “China Post” program, newlywed couples can drop off sealed love letters to each other in one of China’s state-run post offices, and the government will deliver the letters back to them seven years after their wedding day.

The idea was the brainchild of Beijing post office branch manager Sun Buxin, who thought that reminding couples at the “seven-year-itch” mark of why they fell in love in the first place would be the extra spark needed to stay together, and away from divorce court.

Divorce rates in Beijing alone have grown from 11,582 in 2004 to 21,013 last year, according to Chinese government data.  Nationwide in China, a total of 1.96 million couples applied for divorce, up 14.5 percent from 2009.

The rising divorce rate is thought to be a consequence of the country’s rapid economic development, as the strains of finding a job, buying a home and maintaining a family catch up with even the happiest of couples.

Launched in September, China Post also gives newlyweds who sign on the chance to use special stamps, postcards and a Love Passport to be stamped on every anniversary.

In case a handwritten note is not enough, China has extended its marriage-saving mission to the courts as well.  Courts there last month changed the country’s marriage law to ensure that property bought by the groom before the marriage would not be shared in the event of the divorce, a move they hoped would entrench the institution.

Couples optimistic enough early on to use China Post, but not compatible enough to make it as far as even the seven years might not want to check their mail when that anniversary date arrives, however.

“If couples don’t tell us to cancel the service,” Mr. Sun told the BBC, “we’ll still deliver the letter.”