China’s growing problem

Posted by Martyn.

Chinaโ€™s One-Child Policy began in 1979, meaning that the children born in the first year are now 26 years old, barely over the legal age to marry in China. Since the 80s, the male-female ratio has risen from 108.5 boys to 100 girls, to 111/100 in 1990, 116/100 in 2000, and is now almost 120/100. The problem, is all to come:

And the sobering answer is that this vast nation, now the world’s fastest-growing economy, is confronting a self-perpetuated demographic disaster that some experts describe as “gendercide” — the phenomenom caused by millions of families resorting to abortion and infanticide to make sure their one child was a boy.

The age-old bias for boys, combined with China’s draconian one-child policy imposed since 1980, has produced what Gu Baochang, a leading Chinese expert on family planning, described as “the largest, the highest, and the longest” gender imbalance in the world.

In 2000, there were 19 million more boys than girls aged 0-15. The article also estimates that, over the next decade, a staggering 40 million Chinese men will be unable to find wives due to the gender imbalance. Social problems, including crime, criminal gangs, drug use and prostitution are all expected to rise in the years ahead.

In response, the government has launched the “Girl Care Project” in Chinaโ€™s poorest provinces designed to encourage the birth of girls. As well as discouraging pre-birth sex selection and female infanticide, the initiative exempts some girls from school fees and offers an annual payment of US$150 for life for couples who do not try for a son after already bearing two girls. Preferential treatment in health care, housing and employment is also part of the initiative.

Any policy that attempts to address this problem is a good thing, however, the phrase ‘too little, too late’ does spring to mind:

An American demographer, who has been closely following China’s population program and who spoke on condition of anonymity, lauded China’s “coming to grips” with the problem.

“Still, they are in a deep dilemma — emotional and policy dilemma — because the solution to the problem will conflict with other parts of their population strategy to reduce birth rate or some of the measures could perhaps make the problem even worse,” warned the demographer.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

As the article says, it will be the poorest and most disaffected men that lose out finding wives. I’ve heard of places like Japan facing the problem of an aging society but isn’t China the only country that faces such a massive gender imbalance?

I also doubt the offical figures. There is no way that the central govt can possibly know just how many boys and girls are growing up in the Chinese countryside. I suspect that the real imbalance of gender is even worse.

September 17, 2005 @ 5:47 pm | Comment

I think that is great. This might help change attitudes toward women, that is sorely needed in China. I think it is a natural solution.

September 18, 2005 @ 1:21 am | Comment

This is one of the topics the Chinese are very reluctant to talk about.

I guess this imbalance must be overt in rural areas, not at all in the cities.

It’s a disaster of such proportions, I wonder what on earth can be done to get to a solution, after so many years…

If you want to fix the problem of overpopulation (breeding children was encouraged in the past; my boyfriend’s grandma had 14 children) by forcing people to have just one child, you will previously have had to provide people with strong educational and legal bases, so that they don’t run around killing or giving away baby girls.

This issue makes me mad, and the censorship around it. Let’s see how long they can hide the problem.

September 18, 2005 @ 2:05 am | Comment

Your boyfriends grandma had 14 children JaiHua? That’s incredible, she must have spent something like 10 years of her life pregnant.

Is it true that Chinese people are reluctant to talk about this issue? I honestly don’t know. However, many people in general probably haven’t stopped to think about the future implications of tens of millions of extra men in society.

I’ve heard some pessimistic predictions saying that the only way to solve the problem of millions of unmarried men is to fight a few good wars. I hope that doesn’t come true.

September 18, 2005 @ 4:21 am | Comment

Gender imbalance is only one of the problems that China has to face as a result of the One Child Policy. A rapidly aging population is also a very serious threat. So you are looking at millions of unmarried Chinese men who have to work very hard to earn enough money to support his parents and grandparents. The prospect certainly doesn’t look good.

September 18, 2005 @ 4:28 am | Comment

As well as what the second article says about how the ccp should embrace this cybersex phenomena as a way of allowing sexually frustrated males to let off steam, I would also suggest that the ccp embraces homosexuality as well. It’s real, it exists, and tens of millions of Chinese men are gay. If homosexuality was more accepted in China, perhaps by way of a ccp propaganda initiative then perhaps those tens of millions of Chinese gay men who are pressured into marrying would live openly homosexual lives and free up the ladies for hetrosexual guys.

Doesn’t that make sense?

September 18, 2005 @ 9:27 am | Comment

Sorry, I was referring to the second article in the below Cybersex post.

September 18, 2005 @ 9:28 am | Comment

Once again, Daniel beat me to the punch and said what I wanted to say. Damn you, Daniel!

I also read somewhere that another possibility for countries with such a gender imbalance is to channel the males into the army and become more militaristic and such to keep them too preoccupied to cause social unrest..goody!

September 18, 2005 @ 3:20 pm | Comment

The article is a pretty good summary, although I notice again that a reporter who uses terms like “draconian one-child policy” is usually from a country with a very low population density. ๐Ÿ™

I wonder if female immigration to China will increase, or perhaps even be encouraged? Eligible women in nearby countries may be able to find more desirable mates in China, where the odds are better. If this happens, it would dilute the gender imbalance over a larger area and population, although at the same time it would export the problem to countries that did not have a hand in creating it.

An interesting shortcoming predicted elsewhere: while men are responsible for the financial welfare of their aged parents, it’s women who do most of the physical work involved in supporting them. This means that as China’s population ages the demand for female care-givers will rise just as the number of females falls. Some of those parents who thought so little of having a daughter may one day be wishing there were more young women around.

Whenever the topic of changing Chinese attitudes about having girls comes up, I always feel dismayed that this is going to be unusually difficult in China. For parents to make this shift in values will require them to put the good of the general populace ahead of their own personal welfare. That’s asking a lot of anyone, but in China, where the welfare of strangers is valued relatively lower, I’m afraid this will be even harder.

On top of that the problem is amplified by the ~20 year lag between parenting decisions and offspring reaching marriable age. Even a sudden, immense cultural change would take a couple of decades before the results could begin to be felt.

So many challenges brewing for the Chinese! They will need all their flexibility and adaptability.

September 18, 2005 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

Great minds Johnny K…..great minds!

September 18, 2005 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Just curious to know what qualities in the average Chinese man would induce women from any country to move here…

September 19, 2005 @ 4:17 am | Comment

“Just curious to know what qualities in the average Chinese man would induce women from any country to move here…”

Keir, You may not believe that. Some woman will consider some Chinese man having better quality than you.

September 19, 2005 @ 10:54 am | Comment

I don’t know, there are people all over Asia that are poorer than your average Chinese peasant. Marrying a Chinese man might be a good option for a Cambodian or Laotian…possibly Vietnamese lady.

However, some of those figures in the post are frightening. It looks like China has it all it come. Not just millions of men who can’t find wives but a rapidly aging population as well.

NOt good.

September 19, 2005 @ 1:12 pm | Comment

Boy, either the spin doctors are right about the China sky falling, or things might not be that bad? A million is a huge number, but to a billion is 0.1%.

Weren’t the “one-child” policy revised a few times already?

Lastly, this news of few incidents done by local official, against existing Chinese laws, happens to come thru our government channel, to coincide with Hu’s visit. I don’t know, you make the call if it’s propaganda.

September 19, 2005 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

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