The Dangers of a World Without Women

Greg Baker / AFP
Greg Baker / AFP

A few years ago the New York Times ran a story about North Korean farmers selling their daughters for food to Chinese men. New stories are coming to light about Burmese women being sold on the Chinese market.

The Chinese are learning the wisdom of Hemingway’s Harry Morgan: “A man alone ain’t got no chance.” But the Chinese have done this to themselves. In their determination to wipe out poverty by reducing population through instituting the one-child policy, they have created a situation unknown to mankind—a world largely without available women to marry.

The penalties for violating the one-child policy are onerous and include lost jobs, fines totaling several times one’s yearly income, leveling of homes, and even the seizing of family members. Stories have also circulated about forced abortions, literally holding women down and killing their unborn children.

The result is a demographic catastrophe unlike anything the world has ever seen. According to economist Nicholas Eberstadt of Harvard and the American Enterprise Institute, the problem is no longer confined just to China. But in China, it is the worst.

In his 2011 essay “The Global War Against Baby Girls,” Eberstadt writes, “A regular and quite predictable relationship between total numbers of male and female births is a fixed biological characteristic for human populations, as it is for other species of mammals.” This was one of the first discoveries of the new science of demography.

Nature provides more boys than girls, in the range of 103-106 boys to 100 girls. Eberstadt quotes a Catholic priest and statician and the founder of demography, Johann Peter Sussmilch: “The Creator’s reasons for ensuring four to five percent more boys than girls are born lie in the fact that it compensates for the higher male losses due to the recklessness of boys, to exhaustion, to dangerous occupations, to war, to seafaring and immigration, thus maintaining the balance between the two sexes so that everyone can find a spouse at the appropriate time for marriage.”

China, and increasingly other populations, have shown a remarkable shift in this ratio starting in the 1980s. According to Eberstadt, the first notice of this came in 1982, three years after the imposition of the one-child policy, when the Chinese government reported a ratio of 108.5 boys. By 2005, this number had risen to 120. In parts of China, it is now above 150.

Without a doubt, this came about through the confluence of four factors; the one-child policy, son preference, the prevalence of ultrasound technology allowing the determination of sex before birth, and readily available abortion.

Eberstadt reports that in 1982, ultrasound devices “were available in only one-sixth of Chinese counties; by 1985, over half of Chinese counties had them, and by 1990 virtually all did.”

Very rapidly what’s called sex-selected abortions became commonplace. Eberstadt says, “…no less than half of the nation’s higher-parity female fetuses were being aborted…” He says, “most of contemporary China’s abortions are thus intentional female feticides.”

The result is the fact that a substantial number of Chinese men face a life of forced bachelorhood. Eberstadt reports China has changed “from a country where as of 2000 nearly all males (about 96%) had been married by their early 40s to one in which nearly a quarter (23%) are projected to be never married as of 2040.”

The social consequences are immense. Unmarried men are less healthy than married men, unmarried men are more likely to engage in risky and even criminal behavior, and, as we have seen in the Middle East, more likely to be recruited into dangerous gangs and cults. Additionally, the “value” of women will rise and with it the rise of prostitution, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

The bubble of unmarried men can also make Chinese policy makers more adventuresome in the near term. They can see the demographic numbers, too, and realize that in the next quarter century their pool for available soldiers will shrink considerably. If they are going to make their mark on the global stage, if they are going to project Chinese power in the game of great power politics, it must come soon. Susan Yoshihara and Douglas A. Sylva explored this in depth in their book 2011 book Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics, as do Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer in their 2004 book Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surpluce Male Population.

China is not alone in messing with their own demography. Much of Asia has followed, include Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, and South Korea. But it is not just Asia, either. Albania, El Salvador, Libya, Serbia, Austria, Cuba, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, among others, are following suit with ratios at 107 and higher.

Only one country has turned this situation around. Though still high at 107 today, South Korea reached a high of 115 boys to girls in the mid-1990s until they made sex-selected abortions illegal.

What has been the US response? Pro-lifers have attempted to make abortion for sex-section illegal, a move opposed by abortion advocates. And not long ago, Vice President Biden praised the Chinese one-child policy.

Feminists may soon see the results of a world without women.


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