• Tue
  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 8:05am
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 4:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 8:38am

China's real problem: leftover men

Recently a group of women came together at a cafe in Beijing to stage The Leftover Monologues. It was so successful that the organisers decided to do two encores in bigger venues.

The success of the play, a series of first-hand accounts of shengnu, or "leftover women", is an example of the interest the issue of young unmarried women generates in China.

The media writes relentlessly about them, feminists seethe at the stigmatisation, and matchmaking and accessories industries thrive solving the "problem". The state does its bit to help these "yellowed pearls", as the All-China Federation of Women calls them, by dispensing tips like "don't be picky" and "seduce but don't pester".

In contrast, there's far less interest in China's real leftovers - its men. Years of the one-child policy and sex determination caused by preference for boys means there are now 20 million more men under 30 than women. Even if all these women took the state's advice to be less "picky", it would still leave 20 million leftover men. By 2040, there will be 44 million such leftover men of marriageable age. "Leftover women" are an avoidable social phraseology; "leftover men" are an inescapable statistical reality.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post this week, researcher and writer Luo Aiping spoke at length on why leftover women are stereotyped as highly educated and well paid. It's because, she says, this group makes for a promising market. That also happens to be the reason why we don't hear all that much about leftover men.

The typical Chinese leftover man lives in a remote, underdeveloped area, has low income and lower prospects - a guanggun, or "bare branch", so called because he will not add to the family tree. Not exactly a prized target for advertisers, and hence inaudible in the din of the market.

Yet, the challenges leftover men pose to China are staggering, linked as they are to a host of rising problems from prostitution, trafficking and sexually transmitted diseases to violence and even ethnic strife, over an increasingly rare resource - women. To call women leftovers is plain wrong, and not just in the semantic sense.

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This article is now closed to comments

bunko8@yahoo.com
Wonder why there are no coverage of the male-female ratio disparity in India? Seems like it's always about China.
taifookres2
Because you're reading the South CHINA Morning Post, not the Daily Delhi.
Formerly ******
This demographic, unparalleled in the history of the world is what will bring down the CCP.
這個人口統計,在世界歷史上空前不下來,中國共產黨將會帶來什麼。
aplucky1
why is this pitiful article GLOSSING OVER INFANTICIDE
acting like it is some statistical anomaly, THEY KILLED ALL THOSE BABY GIRLS
f u c k i n savages, hope they burn in hell
zhelu1985@live.com
I propose we invade Vietnam again and take their women. It's what the Koreans and Taiwanese are doing, minus the actual invasion part.
chaz_hen
If some of those bare branchers would just shampoo, brush their teeth and cut their overlength, yellowed fingernails, they might have a sliver of a chance with some women...
sienna.lai
nah chaz .. speaking from experience .. just need a bigger wallet. But not stuffed with receipts, but cash.
Dai Muff
Not so sure how that would conjure up a couple of a million more women though. Blame all those parents who only wanted boys.
History has three main ways of dealing with leftover men: more monks, more homosexuality, start a war.
guy.pant
In a documentary, I recall a non-Chinese reporter asking a Chinese man about leftover women to which he responded that there were both both leftover men and women, but the reporter was focused on the leftover women perhaps to paint China in some fashion.
Will.I.Am
South Asia's got a far more bigger problem with male:female ratio.

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