China’s skewed gender ratio hitting the roof

27 Aug

I wonder how the ancient Chinese society coped with this problem. To be sure, their marriageable male population must have been higher than their female population. For one: Female infant mortality rates must have been higher than male infant mortality rates because of how little valued girl babies were. (In Chinese sayings, if you give birth to a boy child it’s called a ‘jade birth’, if you give birth to a girl child it’s called a ‘tile birth’, as in the tiles of your roof.) For another, the habit of richer men having multiple wives/ concubines must have come at the price of other males being deprived of a wife.

From ancient Chinese stories featuring poor bachelors, however, it did seem that the general male generation during that time seemed resigned to the fact. When a pretty girl (in these stories for some reason the girl is always pretty) throws herself at a poor man (which doesn’t happen that often, actually. That’s why they become legends), he is surprised and delighted for multiple reasons. One of the reasons, which seem like a credible reaction for ancient Chinese men, is because they thought they would never be able to get married. They would say that they couldn’t afford to pay for a middle-woman to arrange a marriage, not to say keep themselves fed. (Of course, in these stories, the pretty girl usually comes with a sort of charm that makes them eventually rich.) Men during that time were more resigned to their status than otherwise, partially due to the Buddhist principles of Karma/fate during that time.

However, unrest from being in a state of hopeless bachelorhood is bound to be more problematic in present day China. There are several reasons for this:

1. Under a free market and government encouraged atheism, people are less likely to settle for fate.

2. The fact that families more able to afford more than one child are more likely to have girls might exacerbate the situation, because girls would then be more likely to come from well-to-do families. Thus men from impoverished families would find it more difficult to find brides, due to the fact that women still tend to like to marry above their status.

3. Chinese women still marry outside their country, even though their country needs them. They contract their marriage to Taiwanese bachelors (who certainly aren’t doing it because there are too few marriageable Taiwanese women*) and like to marry foreigners. It is a known fact that the amount of Chinese men marrying western women is lower than the amount of Chinese women marrying western men. This may be eventually overhauled, however, because of the real need in China for brides.

4. Though there are precedents in certain cultures of men sharing a bride. (In Tibet, for example, brothers can share a wife because it’s expensive to marry a woman into a family), it’s not going to happen anytime soon in China. Chinese culture’s ingrained masochist values find the very idea humiliating. Instead, it’s an honor for a man to have mistresses, during which multiple women would seemingly remain faithful to one man. And women seem to agree to this culture as long as the man in question can afford them. This is why prostitution is not going away in China, it’s a convoluted form of sharing women due to lack of women without the indignity of making it official.

A China with more males than females is going to be more aggressive than it would have been under the current trend of development. A nation made up of a majority of men in power is more likely to spell war. Women in top positions aren’t going to ameliorate the general atmosphere either because women, when faced with competition with males, tend to act more aggressively to secure their positions. The Chinese have been relatively docile for various reasons:

A. It is in Chinese culture to only care about affairs that are pertinent to themselves. That’s why even though China has become a superpower it hasn’t expressed so much interest in involvement concerning the Iraq war.

B. Chinese people don’t usually like war because it disrupts prosperity. China also has thousands of years of written history concerning war so such a concept has already lost its glorifying appeal.

With the growing gender gap, however, this docility might not last. This is going to be detrimental to the world, and it does not bode well for cross-strait relationships betwixt China and Taiwan.

relevant article:

Beijing drafts tougher laws on abortion of girls: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2007/08/26/200

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One Response to “China’s skewed gender ratio hitting the roof”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The unmarriage-ables: Domestic trends in Asia « Grace En-Tien Chang - September 11, 2011

    […] I blogged about China’s situation a few years ago: “China’s skewed gender ratio hitting the roof” […]

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