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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

January 23, 2007

Written by C.N.

China’s Growing Gender Imbalance

For decades now, China’s government has enforced a strict “one child” policy that restricted most Chinese families to just one child, in order to curb China’s rising population. Combined with the fact that traditionally, males enjoyed many more legal rights than females, many Chinese couples end up aborting female fetuses in hopes of waiting for a boy. Unfortunately, this situation has created a growing gender imbalance in China, which has the potential to threaten China’s future stability:

Traditional preferences for sons has led to the widespread – but illegal – practice of women aborting babies if an early term sonogram shows it is a girl. The tens of millions of men who will not be able to find a wife could also lead to social instability problems, the China Daily said in a front-page report.

The report, carried in the newspaper, said China’s sex ratio for newborn babies in 2005 was 118 boys to 100 girls, a huge jump from 110 to 100 in 2000. In some regions such as the southern provinces of Guangdong and Hainan, the ratio has ballooned to 130 boys to 100 girls, the newspaper said. The average for industrialized countries is between 104 and 107 boys for every 100 girls.

The report predicted that by 2020 the imbalance would mean men of marriageable age — especially those with low income or little education — would find it difficult to find wives, resulting in possible social problems.

As CBS’s 60 Minutes reported on earlier, the potential problem with China’s gender imbalance is that research consistently proves that marriage has a stabilizing effect on men’s lives. Therefore, if there are too many women and not enough women, more men will end up unable to marry and as a result, are more likely to engage in risky and perhaps illegal activities:

“When there are more men than women, social instability and crime increases in society,” Hudson explained. “Psychologists have talked about what they call the pacifying effect of marriage. Young men who have been pretty extreme criminals — upon marriage — and when the children begin to come, their criminal careers more or less end.” Asked if she is predicting a crime wave, [BYU Political Science Professor Valerie] Hudson said, “Yes. It’s already happening.”

The article notes that there is an increasing incidence of girls and young women being kidnapped and sold to rural men as wives. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what crimes are possible as China’s gender imbalance gets worse. In this context, China had better do something fast to try to address this growing problem.

That is, perhaps China needs to channel or redirect some of its authoritarian control over other domestic matters such as censorship and human rights to both crack down on such kidnapping and illegal sonograms leading to abortions and to elevate the status of women so that they are on equal legal footing with men and therefore, there is no longer any incentive to have a boy rather than a girl.

China’s government has proven time and time again that they have the muscle to impose whatever they want, so here’s a situation where they can actually put that power to good use before it gets out of hand.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "China’s Growing Gender Imbalance" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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