Dateline: Beijing, China, May 1, 2001.
The Chinese government today issued the following important declaration:
To the governments of Thailand, United Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other East Asian nations:
(1) Whereas the People’s Republic of China is currently experiencing a severe temporary shortage of the necessary means of reproduction, namely young women of marriageable age;
(2) Whereas the other nations of East Asia currently have an adequate or even surplus supply of said means of reproduction; and
(3) Whereas equal and fair distribution of the means of reproduction is required by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, is necessary for the maintenance of friendly and comradely relations among the peoples of Advanced Asia, and is being loudly demanded by the several million young male demonstrators shouting beneath our window in the streets of Beijing,
It is hereby unanimously resolved by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and by the government of the People’s Republic of China that:
The nations of East Asia strongly encourage their young women of marriageable age to voluntarily emigrate to the People’s Republic of China as prospective brides for deserving young Chinese citizens.
(a) Encouragement must be sufficiently strong to ensure that at least 27,000,000 such women cross the Chinese border by next Tuesday, May 8, 2001. Suggested volunteer quotas for individual countries are contained in the attached technical post-script.
(b) Preferential encouragement is expected to be given to virgin women, who must constitute at least 50% of each national contingent. Exceptions may be granted to those nations which can prove themselves to be suffering from rampant youthful promiscuity brought on by corrupting Western ideological influences.
(c) Before being sent, young women must be inspected and certified as belonging to one of the six physical beauty classification groups A,B,C,D,E, and F. Description of the suggested classification criteria are contained in the technical post-script, together with classification group quotas for individual countries. Rigid quality-control checks will be made at the Chinese border to ensure that classifications are not inflated either through deceit or through ethnic chauvinism. If quality quotas cannot be met, increased quantity may be submitted on a case-by-case basis following an appeal to the PRC evaluation committee.
(d) Shipment of sub-standard women will not be tolerated. Sub-standard women include prostitutes, disease-carriers, the aged, the crippled, the appallingly ugly, the mentally disordered, and those heavily and incurably contaminated with decadent Western ideology.
(e) The People’s Republic of China will pay a generous bride’s price for each volunteer woman entering. Payment will be made to the sponsoring government and to the volunteer’s family, and may be taken in yuan, yen, American dollars, Swiss francs, or gold, all based on international exchange rates.
(f) Refusal to assist in meeting the comradely needs of the Chinese people will be considered an unfriendly act and punished accordingly. If necessary, military means will be employed to expropriate the surplus reproductive capacity requested, as well as an additional penalty amount imposed. No bride’s price will be paid for expropriated women.
Does the above sound like the most ridiculous scenario for a potential World War III ever suggested, and like an impossibly absurd parody of the dehumanization of women in the modern world? Well, it may be these things—but it may also come true. Consider the following three salient facts:
(1) The Chinese government is currently engaged in a massive campaign to reduce the growth rate of the Chinese population. The core of this effort is a “one child is enough” propaganda push, supported by financial incentives and penalties as well as administrative
pressure. Nearly all of the resistance to the government’s efforts has come from families which have produced daughters and desire a second (or even a third) try at getting a son. Resistance is particularly strong among the peasants of the countryside, who constitute the bulk of the Chinese population. The enormous strength of a Chinese family’s desire to have at least one son stems from several causes: (A) Chinese culture has always placed excessive importance on producing a male heir, who among other things can continue the family line by bearing his father’s name; (B) in previous centuries peasant families unable to produce a son to support them in their old age routinely starved to death, leading peasant folk-wisdom and tradition to attach great importance to the production of sons; and (C) although basic survival is no longer an issue today, the complete inadequacy of the rural Chinese social security system forces parents to rely on a son for their future economic well-being (daughters live with their husbands in e.g. a different village and are inadequate as a source of financial support).
Feelings on both sides of the popular-governmental divide are extremely strong and deep.
There have been confirmed reports that many local officials, desperate to meet their birth-reduction quotas, have resorted to forcing women in even the last month of a third pregnancy to undergo involuntary abortion. Compulsory sterilization of women after second or third pregnancies has also been widely practiced. On the other side, there are widespread rumors of many family’s secretly killing female infants immediately after birth and claiming that a still-birth had occurred (this allows the parents another try at obtaining a son). In fact, female infanticide was widely practiced in pre-revolutionary China for similar reasons; however, infanticide is strongly condemned by the present-day governments, and those practicing it are criminally prosecuted if detected.
Obviously, Chinese officials would eagerly adopt any policy which made population control more palatable to the Chinese people.
(2) Unlike Catholic and Islamic cultures, Chinese culture has little or no inherent opposition to abortion as a means of birth control. And while infanticide (selective or otherwise) violates Chinese law, Marxist ideology, most major Chinese religions, and the ethical views of educated Chinese, (selective) abortion does not.
(3) Currently available means of determining the sex of an unborn child are both inexpensive and highly accurate.
These three simple facts pave a smooth, sloping path down to a hellish nightmare.
It is obvious that Chinese leaders, local officials, and prospective parents would all find it very much in their (short term!) interests to combine the use of sex determination tests with the selective abortion of female fetuses. Every peasant family would have its darling baby boy; local officials would over-fulfill their “one is enough” quotas and receive bonuses and promotions; and national leaders would reap dramatic gains from population control, as well as from the overabundance of future male soldiers, workers, and party activists. Things would look bright indeed for about twenty years—but where would these surplus millions of young men obtain wives?! Millions of men in army uniform and factory work-clothes might make China a powerful, prosperous world super-power by the 21st Century; China might dominate the world in means of production. But to young men, the availability of the means of production is of secondary importance compared to the availability of the means of reproduction; and these would be very scarce in such a future China. What would happen when this crunch came?
Perhaps nothing, perhaps catastrophe. But Chinese culture and political ideology would tend to rule out certain possibilities. Widespread prostitution would be anathema to China’s political leaders and intolerable. Homosexuality is non-existent in Chinese culture, and is anyway regarded as a peculiarly Western abomination both by Chinese tradition and by Chinese political ideology. Polyandry—the sharing of wives—might conceivably be practiced, but it also is contrary to Chinese tradition, except rarely, in the case of brothers, and none of the surplus millions of young men would be brothers.
So what would a huge, militarily powerful state, with tens of millions of hot-headed young men in army and party, do to alleviate a severe shortage of women?…perhaps turn a covetous eye toward the many women of the small, weak, but racially similar states on its periphery? To be sure, Thailand and the Philippines notoriously possess tens of thousands of willing prostitutes available for sale, but these would constitute a mere drop in the bucket of perhaps fifty million young male Chinese without women. It is important to remember that until the last several thousand years, wars fought to gain possession of material goods were not much more frequent than wars to gain possession of women (as in the case of the first war of Rome, fought against the Sabines); and has human nature changed so much in these few handfuls of centuries? It is also notable that one of the principal complaints of pre-revolutionary China was that the poor could not afford to marry; and one of the greatest Communist successes lay in achieving the promise that every worker and peasant would be able to obtain a wife.
But this is anyway all merely fantasy with a nightmare tinge: no government could possibly be so short-sighted as to encourage policies leading to a lop-sided sex-ratio of children. Well, perhaps…but national governments in recent decades have not been notably immune from tunnel vision, especially with regard to novel dilemmas produced by modern technology. And even five years of inaction by the central authorities in Beijing—while local officials and male-hungry parents collaborated in aborting their way to mutual satisfaction and achievement bonuses—would be sufficient for disaster.
The fact is that some time ago I gently raised the above demographic issues with a friend of mine, a student from Shanghai, and was shocked when he said that such ideas were not entirely ridiculous to him. He and his friends back in China had often wondered where the infants and children of today would obtain their future wives: “Perhaps Chinese will have to share wives in th future” they had speculated. The men who rule China today are intelligent, thoughtful, and far-seeing, but they are also very old; let us hope that they remember enough of the feelings and drives of young men to recognize the catastrophe looming ahead, and work to avoid it. Otherwise, by May 1, 2001, the absurd declaration at the beginning of this piece may have a very bitter taste, both to the peoples of East Asia and to the rest of the world.