Girl power

China’s gender crisis

Girl power

Hello boys: sadly there are just too few Chinese girls to go around

Boy-meets-girl is perhaps the most well used storyline in Hollywood. It’s no surprise that two of the biggest grossing movies in cinema history are boy-meets-girl flicks – the story of Jack and Rose aboard the Titanic took $1.8 billion at the box office while Rhett and Scarlet’s tumultuous relationship made Gone with the Wind the top performer (when you adjust for inflation, notes Entertainment Weekly).

If popular culture accurately mirrors real life trends, in China a new film genre may soon flourish: it will be called boy-doesn’t-meet-girl. The plot will centre around frustrated young males who fail to get the girl. And unlike those feel-good rom-coms penned so prolifically in America, they will end without a wedding.

And they won’t be comedies either. That’s because boy-doesn’t-meet-girl is becoming a growing problem in China – and it’s only set to get worse.

In WiC30 we cited the case of 28 year-old Shanghainese, Zheng Tianxiao who pointed out that even though he was well-educated and reasonably well paid, he couldn’t afford an apartment. That meant he couldn’t get a wife, he lamented.

He’s not exaggerating. As Deng Liting, a 22 year-old female graduate from Guangzhou told the South China Morning Post this week: “Men must have an apartment before looking for a wife. That is a prerequisite among all the women I know.”

The Economist magazine last week explained the demographic reason why Chinese girls can afford to be so picky. Thanks to the one-child policy (and the preference in China for sons) there is a massive imbalance of men versus women. When nature is left to take its course, you can expect 103 males to be born for every 100 females; in China that number has shot up to 124. (Why? Parents use ultrasound scans to detect gender and abort female foetuses.)

Earlier this year the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences made a bleak forecast. It estimated that within 10 years, one in five young men won’t be able to find a bride. The Economist points out that this is “a figure unprecedented in a country at peace”. The fear is that they’ll end up morose and prone to cause social unrest.

Some Chinese men are already coming up with practical ways to overcome the female deficit. Website Chinasmack cites the case of a man from Nanjing surnamed Dai who has inspired many internet users with his successful marriage to a Vietnamese bride.

Dai’s web posting calculated that it had cost him Rmb35,000 to bring this off. This included his air fare, agency fees (a hefty Rmb15,000) as well as the cost of holding the wedding banquet locally. He is very pleased with his move, describing Vietnamese brides as “indescribably good” and saying that, unlike Chinese women, they don’t see “money as being very important”.

After returning with his bride to Nanjing, Dai published wedding photos online and gave details of the procedure for finding a wife in Vietnam. He now even offers – for a fee – to lead tours to Vietnam to help other mateless males; and says he has so far led nine groups on marriage missions. “The response has been really good,” he says, estimating he’s been contacted by 200 people in his native Nanjing as well as men in Shanghai and Beijing.

But Chinasmack reports that not all netizens are supportive of Dai. Some have attacked him for simply “buying a wife” while others have asked, more philosophically, “In this kind of marriage, can there be happiness?”

However, even if you agree with Dai’s approach, it doesn’t offer a long term solution to China’s demographic crisis. That’s because Vietnam faces one of its own: just like China, its gender ratio has surged from 105 boys in 1999 to a situation now where 112 are born for every 100 girls. That means it probably won’t be ‘exporting’ brides to China for much longer.

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