Monday, August 18, 2008

Emphasize boys and discount girls

The title of this post is a Chinese phrase “Zhongnan qingnu” that I had recently read about in the book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” (Jennifer 8. Lee, 2008). According to the author, it is a common idiom for the cultural phenomenon in China that is sadly only slightly unique. Traditionally, China has favored boys even in the law. For example, up until very recently, women were not allowed to inherit land. This has only changed because of the huge imbalance between boys and girls. Because of the law that families can only have one child, according to one article (, there are about 120 boys for every 100 girls, with one school having an imbalance of 150 to 100.

In addition to being extremely sexist, this will lead to many other problems. More unmarried men will likely lead to more crime. The article mentioned above talks about how more and more infant and young girls are being kidnapped and forced into marriage. This will no doubt lead to more violence against the women that are forced into these situations.

The big question is, how do you change a cultural? China is trying by providing some incentives for people to have girls. Changing laws will probably have some effect. In addition to the one mentioned above, another law makes it illegal for a woman to find out the sex of their child while still in the womb. Of course, this has simply led to many back alley ultrasounds, which I suppose is better than back alley abortions. Abortions are free in China.

One of the challenges in changing the culture now is that there are already many more men than women. I suppose the men, if they are rational, will see that it is only right that things be equalized in terms of treatment and birth rates. However, I have never known large groups of people to be rational. Therefore, what I expect is for the next 20 or more years to be very chaotic in terms of cultural changes. This may be similar in scope, and violence, to the cultural revolutions that Mao Zedong started in the 1960’s.

We shall see.