Saturday, April 28, 2007

Abortion + Traditional Preference for Males = ???

Obviously, the preference for males combined with cheap ultrasound and abortion has lead to a huge surplus of them in China. But what will the eventual consequences be? Nobody knows, but it can't be good. What frightens me is the potential for global conflict if the Chinese authorities ever decide to put all that restless energy to more productive use. Shooting from the hip, inter-nation-state warfare seems to be a pretty effective way to distract a populace from looking at internal problems. A massive surplus in males is bound to lead to social unrest and domestic problems. As the article above states, in the past such an imbalance has led to civil war in China. Will the Chinese prefer a war over Taiwan or another territory to a potential civil conflict? The Chinese have been restrained in their military excursions over the past few decades. With low estimates of military spending between $69 and $78 billion, that's alot of money to spend on a military you don't plan on using. That number looms even larger when one considers how far a dollar can go in China. The Chinese have been ramping up on everything from fighter jets to naval ships to military satellites. Hell, they even used a missile to shoot down an old weather satellite, rattling everyone from ESA to the Indian and Japanese militaries and demonstrating their commitment to developing assymetric warfare capabilities of the unconventional type. When one considers the potential ramifications for early detection of a nuclear attack, that move was especially troublesome, but I digress.

On a more personal note, I know one Chinese post doc who is really worried about even being able to find a wife. To get a degree in the from a good university in the US means that he is set for life if he wants to teach at a Chinese university, but it also means that there will hardly be anybody left to marry that is even close to his age when he gets back home. He mentions the topic everytime the subject of life after graduation comes up and is visibly disturbed by the prospect of being single his entire life. I've tried to gently suggest that he marry a non-Chinese if he is so worried, but he hasn't even acknowledged my comments. As someone with Korean, Filipino, Mexican and French cousins, not to mention the disparate family backgrounds from 50-100 years ago, that idea seemed plausible to me. I guess it is different for those living in more closed societies, though it seems like a better option than many others. I wonder though if one could find many people willing to emigrate from a place like the Philippines to China? I don't think staying overseas is an option for him. He even has to pay the Chinese government money for each year he is away studying in the US, since he is not being a "productive member of Chinese society."

The point is that China has an awful lot of single guys floating around without much chance of even emigrating to find a wife. I have a few ideas on how to help ease the problem but have a tough time imagining a workable solution with the current Chinese policies in place. I also really wonder what result of this will be and find some of the scenarios downright scary.

Perhaps someone out there has a different perspective?


MamasBoy said...

I don't mean to criticize just China here. India has a huge problem with sex selective abortion in certain parts of the country and among certain classes. I even have a friend whose mom does abortions over there and who admitted that sex selective abortion still happens in India. I didn't ask if she had done any herself and am terrible at reading peoples reactions so I still wonder if she herself had killed members because her client (or client's spouse) didn't want a girl.

Admittedly, the problem seems more manageable in India to me for a couple reasons. First, they don't have a one child policy (though they have had very draconian laws in the past). Second, my interactions with Indians have led me to believe that Indian society has made significant progress in changing attitudes regarding the preference for male children.

purple_kangaroo said...

Yes, the one-child policy combined with abortion as a form of birth control and sex-selection creates a very sticky situation. Hopefully more people will start keeping girls eventually.

I would like to see the one-child policy and selectivity change. Otherwise the society will eventually self-destruct.

Kevin said...


Your predictions sound plausible to me regarding China's implosion or explosion. It is of concern, particularly in light of China's future economic dominance being practically assured, giving it great influence in global politics.

Then again, I suppose the surplus of men may serve to further control population growth, since I think women are strictly the limiting factor in the growth of any population.

At some point perhaps they'll begin financially encouraging female births. It also occurs to me that this issue might be somewhat self-correcting. If the sentiments of your Chinese post doc friend are representative of Chinese society, then perhaps it signifies an increasing value of women. Supply and demand.

Linking it to the previous thread on homosexual marriage, I also wonder whether there will be any impact on sexuality. Besides crime, perhaps it will also impact productivity?


brad said...

This article is the best summary I've read of China, its current condition and future prospects.

The article doesn't specifically focus on sex-selective abortions, but it points out, "the preference for boys has led to widespread female feticide and gender imbalance on an unprecedented scale—120 boys are born for every 100 girls. The disparity will be an inevitable source of teenage violence, as the boys compete for a limited number of available girls."

Kevin said...

Thanks for sharing the article, Brad. Quite a bleak picture. The actions of the family-planning agents are incredibly horrifying. I'm not sure what to make of it all in terms of China's future.

MamasBoy said...


Thanks for the article link. I skimmed through it and it looked interesting. I will try to read the full article later.


Your idea about supply and demand helping to change Chinese attitudes toward the worth of women makes sense. I do hope you are correct.