July 8, 2008
Well, not exactly, but the ratio of males to females in some parts of China is climbing to extraordinary heights. Writing in the latest issue of The New Republic, Mara Hvistendahl observes the effects of the testosterone problem in one Chinese city:
Lianyungang, a booming port city in a Jiangsu province economic belt, is ground zero for some of these changes. According to the China Family Planning Association, it’s the city in China with the most extreme gender ratio for children under four—163 boys for every 100 girls. One sunny Saturday morning at verdant Cangwu Park, I count six boys and three girls bouncing on the inflatable castle. Near the ice-cream stand are a dozen sticky-faced kids, seven boys and five girls, feeding pigeons. The children running after kites adorned with Olympics mascots and China’s Shenzhou VII spaceship: three and two. The drivers of the cheerful little tanks circling an electric track: three and one.
These numbers work fine on the playground, but, for China’s many match- making services, they may prove troublesome. At the Good Luck Marriage Introduction Agency, in a town a few hours’ drive west from Liangyungang, two whiteboards mounted on the wall advertise the age, height, and income of available singles. On the day I visit, founder Tao Hui, a fortysomething woman with a bouffant, is watching soap operas in her sweatpants. She hasn’t felt the shortage yet, she says. On the whiteboards, a few dozen nameless men line up nicely to a few dozen nameless women. For now, many in the early wave of surplus men are marrying younger women.
“We’ll see real problems in eight or ten years,” Tao predicts. Her 17-year- old son, she assures me, has good prospects. But she already turns away a lot of single males from outlying villages with no money or education. “If they’re ugly and can’t find work, there’s nothing I can do. No one wants them.”
Unfortunately, it looks like the problems created by the combination of China’s one-child policy and a cultural preference for boys won’t be limited to ugly men. Hvistendahl reports that the crime rate among youth has doubled over the past decade — and youth interest in violent activities is on the rise.
It seems that as the first fruits of state intervention into Chinese family life reach maturity, the imbalance of the sexes is making lopsided more than just matchmaking services.The Chinese government’s attempt to control its population is in danger of becoming a population out of control.
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