There is an excess of men in China. Estimates show that the number of men exceeds that of women by around 35 million. That’s almost the entire population of Canada. That is more than half of the French. Only men.
We will soon have more clarity on the extent of the problem, when China announces the results of its population census. As attention focuses on whether the Chinese population has started to decline, other aspects of society are also leaving interesting marks in the census – the male-to-female ratio is one of them.
Experts consider that, naturally, about 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. The distortion in China peaked in 2004, when for 121 men 100 women were born. From then on, official figures indicate that the rate has started to fall, but remains high.
With the evolution of society, there is a change in attitude towards a girl. Research shows that, especially in cities, parents say they are indifferent to the sex of the offspring.
Cultural factors and government policies, however, explain the distortion of the decades. The preference for boys is deeply rooted in Chinese society. Among the various reasons is the fact that it is traditionally the responsibility of the son to care for his older parents.
It was common for the wife to be part of the husband’s family with the marriage. Your own family nucleus could be neglected, with significant economic and social implications.
The language comes to reveal this cultural trait. There are different words to refer to the grandmother on the maternal side and the paternal side. The maternal grandmother is “waipo”. This “wai” means “from the outside”, “external”. It appears for example in the word “foreign”: “waiguo ren”. And only the maternal grandmother is “outside”. The one on the paternal side, “nainai”, no.
This cultural element of Chinese society – and that of other Asians, by the way – has been accentuated in the past by government measures. Under the one-child policy, having a daughter essentially meant giving up the possibility of having a male child.
In fact, the one-child policy itself reflected a preference for boys. In the countryside, if a couple had a daughter, they retained the right to have another child. I was going to be luckier the second time around – it made sense, sure. Of course, the argument was economic: a son would be more useful in agriculture.
Today, government measures attempt to prevent the distortion from continuing. Except for health reasons, doctors are prohibited from disclosing the sex of the baby to future parents. There is still concern that the preference for boys will lead to selective abortions.
Distortions cause distortions and today tens of millions suffer the consequences. The women are missing. The imbalance is more serious in rural areas and particularly affects men of poorer socio-economic status.
Many women leave the countryside in search of opportunities in the cities. There, they find work and get married. To a lesser extent, they say, they have the luxury of choosing who to marry and often do so far from their hometown. In addition, more women are seriously considering not to marry.
The phenomenon has led to the emergence of “single male villages” in different parts of China. Many seek brides in neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, under conditions that are not always orthodox.
Today, the birth of a male child generates, in addition to great joy, a dose of worry, especially in the countryside. Traditionally considered lucky, these parents, if they want to see their son married, will need a little luck.
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