It’s raining men in China

As noted in this morning’s brief, the Chinese government is out with a new study that sounds alarm bells about the surplus of men. China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020, making it difficult for them to find wives, according to a national report. The tilt in favor ...

By , a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.
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604850_geofrust_154_05.jpg

As noted in this morning's brief, the Chinese government is out with a new study that sounds alarm bells about the surplus of men.

China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020, making it difficult for them to find wives, according to a national report.

The tilt in favor of male births has grown even more acute in recent years, and the report frets about the "social instability" the testosterone overload may unleash. There may be reason to worry. Christopher Caldwell, writing in the Financial Times, highlights the findings of a German social scientist to argue that an excess of young males can kill:

As noted in this morning’s brief, the Chinese government is out with a new study that sounds alarm bells about the surplus of men.

China will have 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020, making it difficult for them to find wives, according to a national report.

The tilt in favor of male births has grown even more acute in recent years, and the report frets about the “social instability” the testosterone overload may unleash. There may be reason to worry. Christopher Caldwell, writing in the Financial Times, highlights the findings of a German social scientist to argue that an excess of young males can kill:

Since its publication in 2003, his eccentric and eye-opening Sons and World Power (not available in English) has become something of a cult book. In Mr Heinsohn’s view, when 15 to 29-year-olds make up more than 30 per cent of the population, violence tends to happen; when large percentages are under 15, violence is often imminent. The “causes” in the name of which that violence is committed can be immaterial. There are 67 countries in the world with such “youth bulges” now and 60 of them are undergoing some kind of civil war or mass killing.

Martin Walker recently tackled China’s own gender imbalance for FP, noting that Chinese history shows the danger of too many Y chromosomes:

In 19th-century northern China, drought, famine, and locust invasions apparently provoked a rash of female infanticide. According to [BYU political scientist Valerie] Hudson, the region reached a ratio of 129 men to every 100 women. Roving young men organized themselves into bandit gangs, built forts, and eventually came to rule an area of some 6 million people in what was known as the Nien Rebellion. No modern-day rebellion appears to be on the horizon, but China watchers are already seeing signs of growing criminality.

China doesn’t appear to be following the usual pattern in Western countries, wherein migrants from rural areas no longer need to produce so many sons to work the farm—birth ratios still favor males even in prosperous parts of China. But those worried about the possibility of violence radiating from a powerful and overly male China, Walker points out, may take some comfort in the fact that the population is aging fast. The new data backs that up:

The number of 60-year-olds and over will jump from the current 143 million to 430 million by 2040, 30% of the total population.

China, it appears, may soon be a country of grumpy old men.

David Bosco is a professor at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of The Poseidon Project: The Struggle to Govern the World’s Oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist

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