The Guardian reports from Banzhushan, Hunan, where dozens of bachelors reside without a single unattached woman of marriageable age – one of the many consequences of a traditional preference for boys:
Tens of millions of men across China face a future as bachelors. They are a source of pity, not envy, in a country where having children is central to life.
Duan worries about growing old with no one to care for him. He chafes at the unhelpful pressure to wed from his parents and neighbours. The worst thing of all is the loneliness.
This is the perverse outcome of the country’s longstanding preference for sons, and its sudden modernisation. Traditionally, the family line is passed via men. When a woman marries, she joins her husband’s family.
Having a boy is a cultural and a pragmatic choice: you expect him to continue your lineage and support you in old age. The result has long been a surplus of men, because of female infanticide or excess female deaths through neglect. But in the last 20 years, the problem has exploded thanks to the spread of prenatal scans.
Sex-selective abortion is illegal, but is clearly widely practised.
The normal human birth ratio is 106 males for every 100 females. In China, that has risen to 118 boys. That means 30 to 50 million men will fail to find wives over the next two decades, according to Prof Li Shuzhuo of the institute for population and development studies at Xi’an Jiaotong University.
Read more about China’s gender imbalance via CDT.