The combination of China’s one-child policy and conservative social customs has resulted in a gender imbalance so great that for tens of millions of men, finding a marriage partner is soon to become next to impossible.
With the stakes so high, China’s experts and public are suggesting that a great way to fix this problem is to simply balance the shortfall by importing women from overseas.
A recent poll published by The Beijing News found that 61 percent of respondents favor policies that encourage overseas women to come to China as a way to address the “bachelor crisis,” as it is called in the Chinese media. Conducted by The Beijing News and a Tsinghua University think thank, the poll surveyed 1,017 people, half of whom are university educated.
The poll comes on the heels of reports last month in which experts called for immigration reforms to help facilitate cross-national marriages.
Professor Mao Shoulong of the People’s University Public Policy Research Institute and famous demographer He Yafu say that making it easier for overseas women to come work and live in China will help mitigate the bachelor crisis.
Whatever needs to be done, it better be done soon. Professor Yu Yilong of the Society and Demographic Institute of People’s University said the exponential rise of China’s unmarried bachelors will make betrothal gifts more expensive and sharply increase human trafficking, sex crimes and the buying of mail-order brides.
However, some people object to the idea, saying it commodifies women.
Against the advice of polls and experts, internet celebrity Hou Hongbin called such ideas “transnational human trafficking.” Hou also ridiculed the idea of using trans-national marriages to alleviate the bachelor crisis by pointing out the majority of men who won’t have a bride don’t have the resources required to marry a foreign wife. Demographers suggest the men left without brides will more often than not be poor and rural.
According to a 2015 census, the gender gap between unmarried Chinese men and women rises astronomically as they age. Across the country, the average ratio between all males and females is 105:100; however, this rises to 136:100 when considering singles over 30, and rises to 206:100 for single men and women over 40.
Current estimates say that Chinese men will outnumber women by 15 million by 2020, and 30 million by 2050. By 2027, the number of unmarried Chinese men will be twice that of unmarried Chinese women.
Chinese culture’s preference for boys over girls (重男轻女 zhòngnán qīng nǚ) is rooted in the practice of using children to overcome poverty (养儿防老 yǎng er fánglǎo). According to this idea, as many children are born as possible in order to guarantee a comfortable retirement in which they will look after you according to Confucian principles. When a one-child policy was put in place, parents wanted that one child to be male, because daughters typically join their husband’s families upon marriage.
While these proposals may sound like a reprieve for female expats with visa problems, you may not be the demographic they are looking for.
Considered “undateable” by Western women, Chinese men have traditionally shown a preference for overseas women from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, currently a popular destination for mail order brides.
All the same, it’s strange to see an outpouring of support for cross-national marriages when just a year ago the Global Times singled them out for causing the sharp rise in Chinese divorces. But even among such agreement, other solutions to the bachelor crisis haven’t been as popular.
Due to a law that defines a Chinese marriage as consisting of “a husband and a wife”, Chinese homosexuals do not have the right to marriage. Meanwhile, School of Economics and International Trade Professor Xie Zuoshi of the Zhejiang University of Finance suggests that multiple lower-income Chinese men be allowed to share a single wife, warning that “rape and assaults will happen if men cannot find wives.”