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In North America and Western Europe, the past forty years have seen a radical shift in the marriage market. Before, there were too few single men, particularly past the age of 25. Now, there are too many at all reproductive ages … and even beyond.

A similar shift has occurred in East Asia, in part for similar reasons. First, with the dramatic reduction in male mortality, especially male infantile mortality, the sex ratio at birth (normally 105 boys per 100 girls) now persists to 50 years of age and beyond. Second, with liberal divorce laws, older men can more easily re-enter the marriage market and remarry with younger women. Finally, there is a synergy between these two trends. With many more men living into their 40s and 50s, younger men have to reckon with a source of sexual competition that never existed before.

But East Asian societies face another reason for the steady rise in the ratio of single males to single females: a higher sex ratio at birth. To begin with, this ratio seems naturally higher among East Asians, i.e., in the range of 107 males / 100 females. As elsewhere, this higher ratio is now lasting well into adulthood.

To make things worse, the sex ratio at birth has been steadily rising in some East Asian countries because many parents are now using ultrasound technology to abort female fetuses. In China, this ratio has risen from 1.07 in 1980 to 1.18 in 2005 (Poston & Zhang, 2009). Similar increases have been reported from South Korea and Taiwan (Hudson & Den Boer, 2002).

The result? A worsening wife shortage throughout much of East Asia. With not enough prospective brides in their home countries, more and more East Asian men are looking elsewhere. In South Korea, international marriages rose from 4.8% of all marriages in 2001 to 13.6% in 2005. In Taiwan, the rise has been even more dramatic: 32% of all marriages in 2003.

Unlike the situation in North America and Western Europe, governments are recognizing this problem as something to be dealt with and not simply ignored:

In both Korea and Japan, there is concern to maintain ethnic homogeneity, which leads to a basically conservative stance by the government with regard to international marriages, but at the same time in both countries, there are groups of men who are seen to be missing out in the domestic marriage market (in particular, the low educated, and farmers in certain regions of the country) who are seen to require assistance in finding brides internationally. The end result is interesting: the promotion in Korea of marriages between Korean farmers and Korean Chinese women who, although foreigners, are at least of the same ethnicity […]; the involvement, in Japan, of local government in mail order bride programmes in areas such as rural northern Honshu where there was a perceived crisis in the marriage market … (Jones & Shen, 2008)

East Asian governments thus tend to promote international marriage while ensuring that the brides-to-be are physically and culturally similar to their own populations. Unfortunately, the pool of ethnically similar women lies almost entirely in China, which itself is facing a wife shortage. In the not-so-distant future, the Chinese government will probably halt this emigration, or it will simply dry up of its own accord.

What then? Will East Asian governments allow their bachelors to look farther afield? Or will they attack the problem at its source? Will they start paying women to have daughters in order to bring the sex ratio back to parity?

In this, China is in the worst situation. On the one hand, it has the most unbalanced sex ratio in East Asia. On the other, its bachelors are poorly positioned in the international marriage market, since they earn much less money than do bachelors in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Where can they go to find wives?

The most likely place seems to be sub-Saharan Africa, with Ethiopia being especially likely. With their relatively light skin and fine features, Ethiopian women seem to be the most attractive candidates. Chinese entrepreneurs are also well established in that country. This topic came up on an online thread about Chinese-Ethiopian marriages. One Chinese commenter wrote:

In China the Ethiopian women is revered as a Holy God. Every day we say prayer that God will send us an Ethiopian woman for marriage so that our children are smart, beautiful, and clever like Ethiopia.

Two Ethiopian commenters added:

Nice.. Heheh but i think Ethiopian woman date chinese. If you go and see Ethiopia, many chinese dating Ethiopian…. 🙂

Overall, considering the shortage of brides in China, I am all for Sino Ethiopian pact to have as many intermarriages as possible.

If the example of South Korea and Taiwan is any indication, African bride immigration to China should increase exponentially and level off only when the ‘market’ reaches saturation. And remember: China has 29-33 million young surplus males (Hudson & Boer, 2002). Bachelors tend to look for foreign wives when they have friends and acquaintances who have already gone this route, i.e., the ‘effect of example’. There is thus a strong potential for exponential growth with no immediate limit, other than the limits imposed by the Chinese government.

And it’s unlikely that the Chinese government will impose any. First, any restrictive legislation would be seen as being racist by a continent that supplies a growing share of China’s raw materials. Second, the Chinese government tends to see international marriages positively, both as a form of ‘soft power’ to increase influence abroad and as a way to reduce discontent among young Chinese bachelors.

Thus, in the near future, we may see the emergence of a partly African minority in China, numbering perhaps in the tens of millions. This is all the likelier because the African brides will tend to have higher fertility than native Chinese women. Of course, the Chinese government could step in to enforce the 1-child policy, but this policy is only weakly enforced now and any efforts to toughen enforcement would be perceived as being racist … not only by the couples involved but also by China’s suppliers of raw materials.

With China being constrained by the dictates of the global marketplace, in this and in other areas of domestic policy, we may eventually see a nasty reaction against globalization that pits the Chinese people against their government and their increasingly globalist business class. At the very least, China will enter a social environment where racism and colorism are real day-to-day concerns, and not simply theoretical ones.

References

Hudson, V.M. & A.D. Boer. (2002). A surplus of men, a deficit of peace. Security and sex ratios in Asia’s largest states, International Security, 26, 5-38.

Jones, G. & H-H. Shen. (2008). International marriage in East and Southeast Asia: trends and research emphases, Citizenship Studies, 12, 9-25.

Poston, D.L. & L. Zhang. (2009). China’s unbalanced sex ratio at birth : how many surplus boys have been born in China since the 1980s? in J.D. Tucker & D.L. Poston (eds.) Gender Policy and HIV in China, The Springer Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis 22.

(Republished from Evo and Proud by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: China, East Asians, Operational Sex Ratio, Single Men 
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  1. Eugene says:

    The situation in China is what's called "the tragedy of the commons." When each individual pursues his or her own selfish interests, society as a whole suffers. Each family may want to have sons rather than daughters, but if they all actually pursue this goal, it becomes self-defeating because the sons won't be able to find any wives. It's not very intelligent to pursue your own selfish ends without regard for long-term consequences.

    Perhaps the key question is, WHY are Chinese so bent on having sons rather than daughters?

    Traditional answers have had to do with culture. Sons carry the family name, researchers point out, and they also stay rather than leave, which means they care for their parents in old age.

    In his book "Sperm Wars" the British scientist Robin Baker offers another explanation. A preference for sons may be the direct result of a one-child policy. Sons can give their parents far more grandchildren than daughters.

    Of course, sons aren't always successful, and they're more likely to fail reproductively if they're not competitive. In this case, a daughter would be a safer choice, since almost all women produce children.

    However, imagine you only have a single choice between a son and a daughter, given the one-child policy. In this situation, parents would definitely try to "hit the jackpot." Your reproductive future as a parent is limited, so you're going to be damn sure that you maximize your opportunities, and that's only possible with a successful son, who can give you lots of kids (not just within his family but also by impregnating other women).

    Unfortunately, this is the tragedy of the commons. Everyone's trying to "hit the jackpot" and the result is that the jackpot doesn't even exist.

  2. Eugene says:

    I meant to write,

    "Your reproductive future as a parent is limited, so you're going to be damn sure that you maximize your opportunities, and that's only possible with a successful son, who can give you lots of GRANDkids "

  3. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I saw a documentary on this, which I don't remember well, but it did show the government responding. This family I think was given money/welfare for having multiple daughters.

    With increasing wealth and diminishing returns it does seem like the preference for boys is/will calm down. But will it be too late?

    It seems like parents generally care a lot more about having someone slave for them when they're old than they care about their child's well being. Similar in Africa, where a half starving women will have 10 malnourished and impoverished children. Why put all your resources into giving one or two children a decent life (like white people do?) when you can make ten of them all suffer and slave for you?

  4. Ben10 says:

    This has been said in one blog somewhere:
    "The main production of Africa is Africans"

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Umm, you were joking about the Ethiopian thing right?

    China is one of the most race conscious societies on the planet and they generally despise Africans particularly – you seriously think Chinese will en masse start marrying Ethiopians and that Chinese society as a whole will have no problem with this?

    Umm, yeah, right. I`ve actually been to Ehtiopia and the Chinese workers there pretty much shack up with the local women just for sexual release. That`s all.

    A sense of reality here, people!

  6. Tod says:

    It's possible there will be political unrest, the farmers are still an big part of the population.

    29% of the German workforce were in agriculture as late as 1933 and the northern agricultural areas were among the few constituencies that gave Hitler an absolute majority. African troops in the post WW1 Rhineland fathering children with German women caused uproar.

    When you first mentioned paying women to have daughters in order to bring the sex ratio back to parity I thought it sounded far fetched but incentives for a female child would be perfectly feasible in China.

    However, life on farms is so tough that the farmers will have trouble keeping women in their communities. Girls will be off to the cities in search of a better life, I have read of a trend for wealthy Chinese men to be supporting multiple mistresses.

    So there might be a lot of rural men getting very angry as they see their areas turn into a population sink.

  7. Eugene,

    Given China's low fertility rate (1.4), I doubt that a 'jackpot' son would produce more grandchildren than a daughter would. I think this is more a case of people blinding following an algorithm that made sense in the past but not today.

    Anon,

    It's already too late for Chinese males who are now coming of age. Many of them will lose out in the marriage lottery.

    Ben10,

    Producing people ultimately pays off more than producing goods and services.

    Anon,

    No, I'm serious. Modern Chinese society has become very individualistic. Do you think lonely Chinese men will do without female companionship for the sake of the nation? Look at all the substandard construction in China. Do those builders care about the consequences of their shoddy work?

    I agree that most Chinese are intensely proud of their country and many are frankly xenophobic. But very few Chinese have any familiarity with the kind of racial thinking that exists in North America. (The same could be said for many Europeans.)Internationalism is still the official state ideology and most Chinese see no reason for abandoning that world view.

    When East Asians do express explicitly racist and/or color-conscious views, it is usually under the influence of foreign ideologies. This is the case with the Mongolian skinheads and the Taiwanese far right.

    Tod,

    It sounds like a creepy idea and it will probably be introduced through indirect measures, e.g., by tolerating infractions of the 1-child policy when the child is a daughter. What bothers me is that this problem will get even worse, here and in East Asia, once the taboos against polygyny have fully disappeared. And then there's the problem of female out-migration to urban centres. Many rural areas today are as bachelor-dominated as the Wild West used to be.

  8. Peter, I don't think you understand Asians (Chinese in particular) very well.

    Where will the bachelors look? There is absolutely no way in hell that poor Chinese guys are going to go wife hunting in Africa. That ain't happenin.

    There is no REAL problem here. The beta males simply lose out. So what? They don't need wives. This isn't communism anymore, there is NO moral imperative to hand poor Chinese men wives. They are even more likely to be of lower IQ, so letting them NOT reproduce, actually benefits society. And mating low IQ Asian males with even lower IQ African females is a recipe for disaster.

    I'm Chinese, and for all it's worth, I'm looking for an Asian mate. Asian. Asian. Asian. I like small butts, small tits, small eyes, black hair. This is my preference. While hot chicks of other races are fun to look at, they ain't for me.

    You usually never hear Asians express ethnic/racial/color conscious views in ENGLISH, because we are very image conscious (SAPL #110) . However, we are probably the most racist group in the USA. The problem is, we talk about race in our language, so the white people, black people, and hispanic people can't understand. My Chinese friends and I make fun of white people a lot. Sometimes we even speak English on accident, and white people hear it. Read the blog Stuff Asian people like.

  9. Ogunsiron says: • Website

    The most likely place seems to be sub-Saharan Africa, with Ethiopia being especially likely.

    Are you serious, Mr Frost ?
    Extensive racial mixing between africans and chinese *in china* ? It's not hard to imagine the chinese men working in africa right now eventually marrying local women (Although i read that some of them came with wives or girlfriends). I was expecting for the next few years the advent of chinese and half chinese populations in africa itself. And the *inevitable* rise to social and economic dominance of those african chinese in 1 or 2 generations.

    In China the Ethiopian women is revered as a Holy God. Every day we say prayer that God will send us an Ethiopian woman for marriage so that our children are smart, beautiful, and clever like Ethiopia.

    Beautiful maybe (though surprising) but smart and clever ? is this a common stereotype in China ?


    And it’s unlikely that the Chinese government will impose any. First, any restrictive legislation would be seen as being racist by a continent that supplies a growing share of China’s raw materials.
    —-
    This is puzzling. Do the chinese care much about discrimination and racism ? What power do african countries and governments really have ? They can protest but ultimately they need china to buy their products and china can easily corrupt off local leaders.

    Second, the Chinese government tends to see international marriages positively, both as a form of ‘soft power’ to increase influence abroad and as a way to reduce discontent among young Chinese bachelors.

    The creation of local chinese and part chinese communities on african soil seems very very plausible to me but in china itself ??

    Thus, in the near future, we may see the emergence of a partly African minority in China, numbering perhaps in the tens of millions. This is all the likelier because the African brides will tend to have higher fertility than native Chinese women. Of course, the Chinese government could step in to enforce the 1-child policy, but this policy is only weakly enforced now and any efforts to toughen enforcement would be perceived as being racist … not only by the couples involved but also by China’s suppliers of raw materials.
    —–
    Great 🙁
    More black people being subject to "discrimination", failing in school, filling up prisons because of high crime. Unless the african mothers are strictly picked from among the most intelligent, the sino african children will be headed straight to the bottom of chinese society.

    I'd rather see african students and intellectuals going to china, picking up ideas about eugenics there, coming back and starting to apply them at home.

  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:


    When East Asians do express explicitly racist and/or color-conscious views, it is usually under the influence of foreign ideologies. This is the case with the Mongolian skinheads and the Taiwanese far right.

    Do you actually know many East Asians, eg Chinese? Do you speak any of their languages so that you can get an idea of what they actually say?

    Speaking as someone who has been married to a Chinese person for more than 20 years and who speaks some of their languages and listens to what they say, I can pretty confidently say that they can be pretty racist all on their own, and frankly, they have every reason to be. The Chinese have impressive achievements that even Westerners are hard pressed to compete with.

    It is clear that they will, when overseas, intermix with local women, and there are plenty of Chinese/Aboriginal mixes in the north of Australia and Chinese/Papuans in PNG, but real Chinese people look down on such people.

  11. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "In China the Ethiopian women is revered as a Holy God. Every day we say prayer that God will send us an Ethiopian woman for marriage so that our children are smart, beautiful, and clever like Ethiopia."
    Lololololol
    Someone has a great sense of humor.

    'Clever like Ethiopia'

    Ethiopia's national IQ of 63, the world's lowest…
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/nov/05/highereducation.research

  12. Asian of Reason,

    Chinese bachelors won't have to go to Africa to go wife-hunting. It will be done mainly over the Internet (and such websites exist already) and there will be middlemen to make it easier. This isn't rocket science and it can be done cheaply.

    I agree that most Chinese people couldn't care less about lonely bachelors, but lonely bachelors do care about their situation. All it takes is to hook the 'buyer' up with the 'seller'.

    Yes, many Chinese people can be very xenophobic in their personal lives, but many are not. I've met both types. In any case, there is no ideology to articulate this xenophobia. The dominant ideology in China is internationalism and only a minority will openly think outside that box.

    Ogunsiron,

    The Chinese gov't does care a lot about its image in the world, including Africa. Remember, they are competing with other countries for access to those resources. If China loses access to those resources, or even some of them, it will have to live with a lower rate of economic growth and ultimately a more modest standard of living. That would be better in the long run; unfortunately, the government is fixated on growth at all costs.

    Anon,

    Even diaspora Chinese will say they don't fully understand how Chinese people in China think. The country has changed a lot. It's better to talk with exchange students than with diaspora Chinese.

  13. Well, you aren't pairing the exchange students with Ethiopians. And even if you were, the exchange students probably aren't being honest with you, because they don't want to be perceived as racist, of all things. So you have to get the opinions of poor Chinese farmers and factory workers. Do you think they are more tolerant? From my experience, the answer would be NO.

    The dominant ideology is NOT internationalism in China. It is Nationalism. Pick up Susan Shirk's China: Fragile Superpower if you would like a brief overview of Chinese internal politics and the general public political view.

    As to whether China wants to use African brides as a means of soft power, they have better ways. Ethiopia, though one of the better faring African countries, needs high IQ Chinese to help build infrastructure. There is no need to trade women.

    I've responded with a lengthy post on my blog. Check it out. Your post really intrigued me.

    And if the single bachelors get too rowdy, we can just shoot them, like we did in Tiananmen. We just have to make sure the PLA is getting their women. I'm one of the few people who can justify the 1989 massacre.

    I don't think that's the best solution. It would be better if Westerners sent their adopted Chinese girls back for marriage.

  14. And China's government isn't fixated on growth at all costs. Like all political groups in power, it's main focus is on maintaining power, and growth is only one part of power preservation.

  15. Tod says:

    Like all political groups in power, it's main focus is on maintaining power, and growth is only one part of power preservation.

    No, it is relative power that is the be all and end all of states.
    The threat of China

    The West is being taken for a ride by China

    Gabor Steingart: "In a termite state, it is the collective rather than the individual which sets the agenda. Tasks that serve the aims of society’s leaders are assigned to the individual in a clandestine manner that is barely perceptible to outsiders. It is a state that encourages as much collective behavior as possible but only as much freedom as necessary. We don’t know what they feel, we don’t know what they think and we have no way of guessing what they are planning. Indeed, this is what makes China a dark superpower".

    It is because nothing is allowed to stand in the way of growth that China will do nothing to offend the US. China is going to continue to humour the West because China wants to become the worlds number 1 state.

    They are pretending to be enviromentalists now – getting in on the carbon credits trading – here is how they really work
    China uses fear to hush up poisoned children .

    Re IQ

    What do you think the IQ of the Chinese women who stay in population sink rural areas will be.

  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "When East Asians do express explicitly racist and/or color-conscious views, it is usually under the influence of foreign ideologies."

    Where did you get this idea? It really looks like a prejudice.

    In 1902, the reformist luminary Kang Youwei advocated "Improver of the Race" medals for whites or yellows volunteering to marry blacks in order to purify mankind.

    Please, read the rest :

    http://books.google.com/books?id=uG-rAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA89&lpg=PA89&dq=kang+youwei+medals&source=bl&ots=C-VAwXSAyL&sig=qMvwHhzHYq347cH2XPhf4fD0i4E&hl=fr&ei=h13RScznO-XKjAfarfDVCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

    I know you can read French :

    "L'etudiant noir en chine" (An African student in China is telling his ordeal)

    http://www.cameroon-info.net/cmForumNG/viewtopic.php?t=16151

  17. Sagat says:

    The idea of Chinese bachelors importing wives from Africa seems far fetched for a number of reasons. First there is the cost factor. I can't imagine that it would be cost effective in any way to transport an Ethiopian woman to China. Secondly, there is the massive cultural difference. In what way would Ethiopians, or any other Africans for that matter, be able to integrate into Chinese culture? The social problems this would cause would make the endeavor practically worthless for the expense involved.

    If Chinese men were to import wives, I'd imagine they'd look to southeast Asia well before they pursued an African. While there are some differences between SE Asians and Chinese, they are far smaller than the differences between Africans and Chinese.

  18. Rollory says:

    That Cameroon story actually supports the claim of increased Chinese/African intermarriage.

    The attitudes on display aren't too different from the ones common in the USA during Jim Crow. The same liberal forces at work in the USA may function in China.

  19. Ann says: • Website

    Interesting that you pointing out Ethiopian women and Chinese men. There was a documentary that aired on a Chinese channel last year about a Chinese man who married an Ethiopian woman. Someone posted it on YouTube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgT5SZbED-M

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    chinese men dont have to go all the way to africa to find a bride….theres always central asia or south east asia.

  21. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Are you guys Joking ? Most Chinese are not attracted to Black people. The most common inter racial relationship for Chinese [in China] is South Asians, followed by Central Asians, Indians and then Europeans and Arabs.

    Blacks…are not even on the Radar. It is nearly unheard of, and it is looked down upon. Your family in China would very likely disown you if you came home with a Black, frizzy haired, Bantu looking women [or man].

    /disgusting.

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