A Demographic Mishap?

As ever I don’t claim to be an expert, but after reading a little, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the future of China’s Demographics. What first sparked my interest was an article discussing what has been dubbed a ‘Bachelors’ Crisis’. It has been estimated by China’s National Bureau of Statistics that by 2020 the men of China will greatly outnumber the women by a staggering 33.8 million. This great void has been attributed to the extensive use of the ‘one child’ policy. During which time it was often preferred to has a son, as opposed to a daughter, a matter of practicality? I’m not so sure, but perhaps more of a cultural design. Either way this pattern of gender selection is now predicted to come to a head. Historically with a surplus of men, societies generally grow more violent, women have always been a calming influence.

Past periods of unrest in Chinese history have been linked to similar demographic shifts. When female infanticide skewed the sex ratio of the Qing dynasty’s population in the 19th century, young men unable to find wives formed into armed bands and the imperial realm experienced a succession of armed revolts across the countryside that fatally weakened the Manchu regime, hastening its 1911 downfall. (Hong Kong Free Press: https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/10/02/china-begins-countdown-to-bachelor-crisis-as-over-33-million-extra-men-come-of-age/)

Now what does this mean for the younger generations, both those currently in that bracket and those who will soon grow into it? Increased competition for women? More than likely. Will higher demands placed on men to show that they are viable partners? Logically you’d expect so, women will be faced with a barrage of potential bachelors, and they will have the power to pick and choose. Arguably wealthier men already posses a sizable edge in such a competition, so where will that leave those less fortunate? It’s possible that not only will this lead to an increased demand for prostitution, but it could also lead to an increase in sexually related crimes. As it is China is a remarkably safe place, especially for foreigners, and I’m sure it will remain so. But there is the potential problem there, these young men will find one way or another to vent their … frustrations. I find myself curious as to how such an imbalance will come to effect sexuality, sexual attitudes and behaviours. In the face of claims that in more progressive areas of the country, such as Shanghai or Beijing, sexual attitudes are shifting further towards western ideologies, such as they are. Will an overabundance of men encourage or repress any kind of change, real or imagined? Will this increasing amount of men allow women to become sexually more liberated, or will the be forced to choose a partner and settle faster than before? Of course I don’t hold any of the answers and my crystal ball is currently out of service, but it seems there is no denying such a shift in the population will effect the country in one way or another.

Any potential change may be further compounded by a recent phenomenon sweeping China. There are an estimated 20 million homosexuals currently in China. Although it is no longer a crime, nor is it classed as a mental illness anymore, homosexuality still boasts a high level of negative stigma and cultural bias. Whilst progressive steps forward are being taken, it is never an easy task changing the cultural views of a nation. It most certainly won’t happen over night, its a change that develops generationally. Now what is this phenomenon I mentioned? It’s called Xinghun: marriages for show. (http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/in-china-gay-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman). Aside from marriages in which homosexuals and heterosexuals are married, homosexual men and women are now marrying each other to integrate more fully with society. A large driving force behind this is the expectation of children. Whilst some of these marriages avoid the issues, others forge documents legally certifying the women as barren. The third option, which also occurs is the raising of a child, leaving the parents struggling to find ways to inform their children as to the reason(s) they were born. Whilst this may not seem to present a problem to China’s shifting demographic, and don’t misunderstand me here, I have no issue with homo or heterosexuality, it may present a short term solution.

While xinghun is hardly ideal, it’s an improvement from what’s already been going on for centuries—gay men wedding heterosexual women and vice versa. According to research from Qingdao University, 80 percent of the estimated 20 million gay men in China are in fake marriages, meaning that 16 million Chinese women are currently married to gay men. Unlike the users of the xinghun website, the majority of these partners were not informed beforehand. (http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/in-china-gay-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman)  

Now, of course in an ideal world, anyone could marry anyone they wanted, without their sexuality, gender or any such constructs becoming an issue. However with a such a large predicted shift towards a male heavy population 16 million women in ‘fake marriages’ could become more of an issue than it otherwise would ever be. Again I wish to stress that this is not an attack on any particular party or group. Does this mean society will be forced to take a more progressive stance towards homosexual marriages to, for a lack of better words, release women from fake marriages, by removing the need for them all together. Or will it further compound the impending ‘Bachelor Crisis’? At the very least it is food for though. With the recent changes in China’s family planning laws, perhaps there will be a further loosening of the reins in an attempt to counteract such sweeping demographic swings. Only time will tell.

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