China's civil affair department registered annual increases in both divorces and marriages in 2007,although the number of break-ups rose faster.
About 1.4 million couples divorced last year, a year-on-year increase of 18.2 percent, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs here Thursday.
Meanwhile, 9.5 million couples married, up 11.8 percent from 2006.
The number of divorces has been rising since 1980 when the figure was 341,000.
Last year's total figure could exceed 1.4 million because the report omitted court-sanctioned divorces.
Sociologists attributed the increase to the fast-changing society and challenges to traditional concepts of marriage.
For instance, frequent migration and busier work could challenge the stability of marriages, Xu Anqi, an expert from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Beijing-based Global Times in an earlier report.
Society was more accustomed to sensitive issues, such as extramarital affairs, one of the most biggest causes of marital splits.
A private detective was quoted by Beijing-based weekly China News Week in its Wednesday issue that he was receiving a growing number of extramarital affairs cases.
"Our investigations usually prove suspicions of affairs and are more serious than the spouse suspects," said Chang Lianyong, head of the agency.
A new regulation on marriage and divorce, taking effect in 2003,simplified the divorce procedure, allowing couples to divorce within a day at a cost of 10 yuan (1.36 U.S. dollars).
Previously, couples required permission from employers or community committees to divorce, and many stayed together to avoid public embarrassment.
More Chinese women were financially and mentally independent and determined to be single, said Chen Xinxin, an expert with the Women's Studies Institute of China. "This also contributes to a higher incidence of divorce."
The increase in break-ups did not mean that Chinese were losing faith in marriage, Xu said. "They are looking for marriages of higher quality."
"People's expectations are higher. The things couples compromised on ten years ago aren't tolerated today," she said.
The number of new marriages has fluctuated annually in the past decade. In 1998, the figure was 8.92 million, but it had fallen to7.86 million in 2002 before rebounding a year later.