China’s Male Surplus And The Risk Of Rising Violence

Decades of governmental policies and societal mores have created a staggering gender imbalance in China. Thirty million restless males with no romantic prospects is a recipe for disaster.

Safe for now
Safe for now
Xu Ben

BEIJING â€" By 2020, China will have as many as 30 million single men with virtually no prospect of finding a wife because of the country's staggering gender imbalance. It's expected to create a troubling "bachelor crisis" that will trigger a dizzying array of problems such as a high economic cost to finding a wife, mercenary marriage, human trafficking, intergenerational competition, extramarital affairs, and an increase in sexual diseases and sexual offenses. But that's not even the worst of it.

The most likely outcome may be violence.

In his bestselling book The Better Angels of Our Nature American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker wrote that one of the most significant factors in modern society's decline in violence is feminism. Marriage is conducive to social stability. Not only does a married man take responsibility for his offspring, but he also renounces competition with other men for other sexual opportunities. Between 1940s and 1950s in the United States, when people happily married, the homicide rate plummeted. But during the 1960s and 1970s, when people delayed getting married, the murder rate rose. In the African-American community, where the marriage rate is particularly low, the murder rate remains considerably higher too.

A surplus of bachelors is particularly troubling because this demographic is the most unstable population group, representing the major cause of societal violence.

Evoking the demographic changes in the Arab world in his book The Future of Freedom, U.S. journalist Fareed Zakaria wrote that "a bulge of restless young men in any country is bad news." Almost all crime in every society is committed by men between the ages of 15 and 25, he noted. "Lock up all young men, one social scientist pointed out, and violent crime will drop by more than 95%."

Historical parallels

Zakaria further wrote that France went through a spike in the youth population just before the French Revolution in 1789. And so did Iran before its revolution in 1979. Even the United States had a youth bulge that peaked in 1968, the year of the country's strongest social protests since the Great Depression.

Likewise, authors Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer write in their book A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace, that surplus young adult males will in large measure have an impact on the international and internal security of nations. They pointed out that the methods of offspring sex selection, including active and passive female infanticide, is responsible for China's abnormal birth sex ratio of around 119 boys per 100 girls. The normal ratio ranges from 105 and 107 male births per 100 female births.

As Pinker pointed out, poor men are the societal losers, because when women are scarce, rich men are better positioned to access the marriage market. Pinker writes that these "bare sticks," as Chinese bachelors are called, may form gangs and at worst become a considerable mass threat to local or central authorities.

So what's the solution? In the past, countries conscripted such young men into the military. Even better, he wrote, would be to export "such destructive forces by sending them to other countries' territory, as migrant workers, colonizers or soldiers."

This obviously isn't feasible today.

China's dramatic imbalance is the combined effect of three factors â€" patriarchal gender preference, the one-child policy that has just been lifted, and the sex selection practice. So to mitigate the situation, all three factors should be eliminated.

The first factor involves societal attitudes, while the latter two are related to governmental policy and regulation. It's much easier to change policy than it is to address social concepts and mores.

Professor Xie Zuoshi has suggested that the social issue could be solved by economic theory â€" that poor men could share one wife together. He claims his idea is not at all whimsical because in certain remote rural areas, there is already a practice of brothers happily sharing the same wife.

He also says that allowing homosexual men to legally marry would considerably relieve the pressure of China's bachelor crisis.

Xie's suggestions have predictably aroused spirited debate in China and beyond. Whether or not his ideas have merit, his starting point of trying to cope with this impending social crisis with policy won't be enough. It would be akin to quenching a thirst with poison and would not fundamentally solve the problem.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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