Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young, and a Chinese woman, was very heaven. It’s not so hot, though, if you are male. The girls in
China are in a sellers market, with plenty of boys only too anxious to buy…if they can afford the price of entry. The sad truth is that there are boys being born today in China who will never marry, who will never find the right girl, because there are simply not enough girls to go around.
For over twenty years the Chinese authorities have operated a one child policy as a way of controlling a burgeoning population. When this is combined with a traditional preference for male children, thus ensuring the preservation of the family name, a preference that has seen the widespread abortion of female foetuses, a major demographic imbalance has resulted. The sad irony is that family names will die out anyway in the absence of wives for only sons.
The shortage of women is bad enough. What makes it worse is the ‘reverse dowry’ system that operates across much of rural
China. Bachelors are generally expected to have a minimum of 80 thousand Yuan (about $12000) to allow them to set up a home with their prospective wives. In peasant communities few men can ever hope to command such personal wealth. Inevitably this will draw more and more people towards the cities, there creating even greater social problems.
On the latest projections demographers estimate that there will be a surplus of 50 million men by the end of the present decade alone. This will mean millions of lives unshared. In the absence of the forms of social stability brought about by marriage crime and disorder are likely to increase to unprecedented levels.
Commenting on this Li Jianmin, the head of the
Institute of Population and Development Research at , said that “The gender imbalance trend started showing in the early 1980s, and now we have just walked over the threshold. In five to ten years, the high risk period will come.” Andrea Den Bores, a demographer, also warned of the long-term implications of Nankai University China’s new population crisis in her book Bare Bones:
It is difficult to be optimistic because while the
China knows that this problem exists, it does not appear to have any plan. There is a strong potential building for future violence and unrest and so far the Chinese authorities have not developed a response to these issues other than violent ones.
Thomas Malthus, the gloomy prophet of population Armageddon, continues to be relevant, though not in ways that he had anticipated. In his classic An Essay on the Principle of Population he talks of the unhappy people who, in the great lottery of life, have drawn a blank. Many Chinese men are looking into a future that is no more than a deep well of loneliness. Nature is finely balanced. We interfere with its mechanisms at huge peril.