The cause of the world financial crisis is complicated, but one Columbia researcher points out that Chinese women—or the lack thereof—may be at the root of the problem. The Economist reports:
During a lively discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday, Columbia professor Shang-Jin Wei … claimed that the skewed Chinese sex ratio (there are more men than women) can explain much of global trade imbalances. Mr. Wei reckons the Chinese sex ratio can explain the high Chinese saving rate, and this is what’s behind China’s current-account surplus.
As a solution to social and economic problems, the Chinese government officially adopted the “Family Planning Policy” in 1979, limiting families to one child, with exemptions to some population groups (ethnic minorities, rural couples, and semi-autonomous regions). Enforced through fines, the policy is controversial both in and out of China and has been cited as the root of many social issues.
One of those issues is the current gender inequity. In the Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, and Anhui provinces, baby boys outnumber baby girls by 30 percent or more. And those baby boys are now bachelors coming of marriageable age.
Here’s The Economist again:
The marriage market is becoming very competitive with so few girls. Chinese parents want to accumulate as much wealth as possible to ensure that their son can attract a wife. It is also important to provide sons with the best education possible. A competitive marriage market means that members of the disadvantaged gender must raise their game, which in China means greater wealth and education.
If this truly is the case, then we may be on the edge of an economic and social upheaval. Because what will millions of young, lonely men do to attract women? Spend … and get very frustrated.
With the bachelor boom projected to get worse, the marriage market is only going to get more competitive. This begs the question: with such heightened competition, what will it mean to be a Chinese man? Or, more pressingly, what does this mean for Chinese society (and the world by extension)?
The Atlantic hypothesizes that the bachelor bulge and burst of youth and frustration may lead to more serious political consequences:
According to the German scholar Gunnar Heinsohn, European imperial expansion after 1500 was the result of a male “youth bulge.” Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 was the result of a similar youth bulge, Heinsohn argues. During the Cold War, it was youth-bulge countries—Algeria, El Salvador, and Lebanon—that saw the worst civil wars and revolutions. Heinsohn has also linked the recent rise of Islamist extremism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to an Islamic youth bulge.
Or, Chinese men may be forced to create a new kind of masculinity—a gender counter-culture based on sexual identity without the presence of females other than their mothers. (See: Japan and its sexless grass-eating boys.) Whatever the case, it will be fascinating to see what happens. And if my instincts are right, it will be happening very, very soon.