China: July 29, 2002


China's draconian "one family, one child" rule has long been expected to produce social problems due to the high number of female children killed by their own parents at birth. (In China, the only real retirement program is that the son takes care of his parents. Daughters take care of their in-laws, not their own parents. The result is that sons are strongly preferred.) The first year group of young people since this policy reached widespread use is now reaching the age of 15, and there are 500,000 more men than women in that age group. Marriageable daughters are, reportedly, going largely to the upper social groups within each village or district. The sons of the poorest families are, to a great extent, not finding wives as why would a family (in a culture of arranged marriages) not find it better to marry their daughter to the best available bachelor? The problem will get worse as years go by, the surplus males of each year group try to find brides among the next younger year, leaving more and more of those men frustrated. Reports of women being kidnapped or purchased in other countries and brought into China for sale as wives are common, but
unconfirmed. Dire predictions of social upheaval are rampant, but no mass movement has been seen. Perhaps the men realize that the government cannot manufacture 15-year-old women in a single year. But given that realization, would the men become more likely to support the invasion of nearby countries or to start a civil war over the available women? Or will they, as Chinese have done for a thousand years, simply accept their fate?--Stephen V Cole


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