XINRAN XUE, a Chinese writer, describes visiting a peasant family in the Yimeng area of Shandong province. “We had scarcely sat down in the kitchen”, she writes (see article), “when we heard a moan of pain from the bedroom next door…The cries from the inner room grew louder—and abruptly stopped.
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‘That's a living child,' I said in a shaking voice, pointing at the slops pail. Girl babies don't count.'” In January 2010 the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) showed what can happen to a country when girl babies don't count.
Within ten years, the academy said, one in five young men would be unable to find a bride because of the dearth of young women—a figure unprecedented in a country at peace.
The number is based on the sexual discrepancy among people aged 19 and below.
According to CASS, China in 2020 will have 30m-40m more men of this age than young women.
For comparison, there are 23m boys below the age of 20 in Germany, France and Britain combined and around 40m American boys and young men.
So within ten years, China faces the prospect of having the equivalent of the whole young male population of America, or almost twice that of Europe's three largest countries, with little prospect of marriage, untethered to a home of their own and without the stake in society that marriage and children provide.
Gendercide—to borrow the title of a 1985 book by Mary Anne Warren—is often seen as an unintended consequence of China's one-child policy, or as a product of poverty or ignorance. The surplus of bachelors—called in China , or “bare branches”— seems to have accelerated between 19, in ways not obviously linked to the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979.
The midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slops pail!
I nearly threw myself at it, but the two policemen [who had accompanied me] held my shoulders in a firm grip.