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She’s just not that into you: China’s bachelors in crisis thanks to shortage of women

Beijing News provided a helpful chart showing top destinations around the globe for China’s male singletons to find a partner. The newspaper also blamed the “export” of women overseas for the shortage of single women.

In truth, the biggest problem has been the country’s one-child policy, which led parents to abandon girls or use sex-selective abortion to guarantee a male child. Chinese hospitals have been banned from revealing a baby’s sex to the parents since 1995, but families can secretly obtain black-market sonogram tests, where blood samples are carried over the border for testing.

The government is now pushing for all couples to have a second child, but the cultural shift has not yet happened. Chinese couples tend to marry fairly young and are focused on their careers by their thirties.

Single women over 30 don’t have it much easier than the men. Despite their shrinking number, they are commonly considered washed-up, and referred to as “bare branches” or “leftover ladies”. Wu Di, a Cosmopolitan contributor and author of I Know Why You’re Left, now offers these “sheng nu” women $200-per-hour romance counselling, Foreign Policy reports.


Bachelors in poor rural areas are being hit the hardest.

Bachelors in poor rural areas are being hit the hardest. Source: AFP

But this may have to change, as the effects of 1978’s one-child policy becomes increasingly apparent. An estimated 12 to 15 per cent of Chinese men will be unable to find a mate within the next seven years, according to The Atlantic. With an ageing population, more and more of the elderly have no children to care for them in their old age.

And the problem is already hitting hardest in poor, rural areas. Young women from these neighbourhoods are increasingly likely to head to urban centres, in China or overseas, to find a better life. China’s tradition of “hypergamy” means women are expected to “marry up” in terms of class, wealth and age — and are allowed to marry at 20, while men have to wait until 22.

Low-status “diaosi” men are forced to compete against a materialistic backdrop, with a Thoughtful China panel discussion observing that status and salary were now more important than love.


Marriage is increasingly commodified in China.

Marriage is increasingly commodified in China. Source: AP

Fortune recently found that the gender imbalance had caused a two per cent rise in GDP, as China’s bachelors drive the economy upwards in their effort to snag a spouse.

Owning a house has become vital, with reports of rural families buying their sons two-storey homes to impress potential mates, and leaving the second floor empty. Some men were even said to have resorted to selling blood to cement their image as a successful breadwinner.

The lack of eligible women has also led to more disturbing trends, including prostitution, trafficking and “kidnap marriage”.

Some academics have linked China’s gender imbalance with a rising incidence of rape and sexual harassment. PRB demographer Dudley Poston says countries with an excess of men are historically more violent, since the testosterone that helps them compete tends to drop when they take on nurturing roles as husbands and fathers.


Chinese men are being urged to look overseas for a wife.

Chinese men are being urged to look overseas for a wife. Source: News Limited

“These extra men will be the bottom of the barrel, the rural boys that nobody wants, and they won’t have any money,” he says, predicting an unprecedented spread of HIV and the spread of bachelor ghettos.

Academic Ravinder Kaur, who has written about the “marriage squeeze” points to research showing evidence that poor, unmarried men are not more likely to be violent, but certainly tend to have lower self-esteem and depression.

There are reports of “marriage fraud” from countries such as Vietnam, where women advertise themselves as potential wives, persuade Chinese men into lavishing them with money and gifts and then vanish just months into marriage.

South Korea has been credited with eliminating its gender imbalance in the 1990s, but it is actually a case of the rich choosing sons and the poor choosing daughters, according to Good magazine.

The future hangs in the balance for China’s young, single men.


The next generation shows off its boyish enthusiasm.

The next generation shows off its boyish enthusiasm. Source: AFP



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