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Joe Biden, China, and how I was right all along
August 24, 2011 - Stephen Browne
Well Vice-president Joe Biden may, or may not have stepped in it again.
On Sunday he made statements that appeared to condone, or even approve of, China's one-child policy. Detractors jumped all over him, pointing out that China enforces the policy with brutally inhumane methods. Supporters claimed he actually made some criticism of the policy, couched in diplomatic language appropriate to a guest in a foreign country.
Doesn't matter, I want to point out a consequence of that policy that I saw over a decade ago, which has only been very cautiously, recognized recently.
Infanticide for population control is nothing new in China, read or reread "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck. Chinese peasants have traditionally done away with baby girls born during famine years.
That's the point - girls. Chinese families preferentially raise boys, because sons are their parents' social security. Confucian notions of filial piety require sons to support their aged parents. However girls are lost to their parents forever when they marry. Even if her husband dies, his family controls the widow's remarriage rights. As a consequence, if a family is limited to one child, by one means or another they chose boys.
The one-child policy has been in effect for a generation now and the consequences have become evident. There is a gender imbalance in China, a huge one. I have been trying to get even a rough estimate for years. Only in the last two years have any even reasonably accurate guesses been available - and they amount to tens of millions nationwide in China. In Shanghai alone it is estimated there are 160 men for every 100 women.
A British study warned of "the potential for criminality" in a society with too many young men and not enough women.
This is one of the few times I don't admire that British understatement. Criminality? This is a recipe for social upheaval on a huge scale!
We can look at history. In the 19th century there was a large gender imbalance caused by several famine years in succession. A generation later the Tai Ping rebellion broke out, which set records for casualties that lasted well into the 20th century.
Readers who've followed me for a while know that I am generally skeptical about disaster scenarios. I've lived long enough to remember when the fashion disaster de jour was the Next Ice Age and the extinction of blonds by the year 2000. But demographics is hard to ignore, it's based on numbers and facts not in dispute that admit of very little leeway in interpretation.
And by the way, politics and ideology may have little to do with it after all. In neighboring democratic India there is evidence of a similar gender imbalance emerging as villagers with access to modern clinics are entirely voluntarily choosing sons over daughters.
Happy 21st century!
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