The "China Syndrome": Too Many Men?


Our son got married last month. He didn’t have to look far…he and his new bride met at church. But, there are over 24 million sons who may never find a wife. These are the men of China.[1]

Their quandary started over thirty years ago, when China forcefully imposed a one-child-per-family policy. In a culture that prefers sons because they are obligated to care for their aging parents, girls are treated as a liability. Millions of tiny girls have been either killed at birth or aborted.

Intrauterine sex discrimination ramped up in the 80s, when ultrasound made these search-and-destroy missions even more effective. In some areas in China, there are 130 boys born for every 100 girls. Imagine what is happening as these boys grow up and are ready to get married. The more desirable urban dweller may find a mate, while the poor rural man is left with . . . no one.

How do they resolve their yearning? Some resort to abduction, an illegal marriage, or prostitution. Young women in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to these tactics. The situation is only going to get worse, as rural women head for the city to “marry up,” and villages become “men-only” clubs nobody wants to join.

This dilemma has thoroughgoing feminists in a dither. On the one hand, they oppose sex discrimination, while on the other, they support a woman’s right to decide what is a legitimate reason for her abortion When that reason is sex selection, it puts gender discrimination in conflict with reproductive choice. This has resulted in what one feminist philosopher calls the “tragedy of the commons.” The cumulative impact of thousands, even millions, of individual choices they believe to be morally justified, has resulted in serious social harm: massive, lethal discrimination against unborn girls, exploitation of grown women, and the most serious gender imbalance imaginable, leading to potentially cataclysmic social unrest.

I watched two feminists discuss this problem. Ultimately, they had no solution other than to figuratively wring their hands.

This is a classic case of a rigid ideology resulting in selective discrimination. Woman’s absolute veto power over life in the womb today not only assaults one generation of baby girls, it binds the next generation of the female survivors to the uncertainty of abduction, forced marriage, or prostitution.

It also points out the potentially poisonous effect of our private choices. When we make decisions that seem good to us at the moment, and ignore the potential impact on others, unintended consequences may result, sometimes in explosive ways at the broader level of society and culture.

As Christians, we know that all girls—and boys—are equal in value, whether inside the womb or out. If our society ignores this moral truth, and we continue down the path led by China, we may find ourselves in a true “China Syndrome,” a catastrophic meltdown of society.

[1] Tania Branigan, “Chinda’s Gender Imbalance ‘Likely to Get Worse’,” The Guardian, May 19, 2009, Cf. “China faces growing gender imbalance.”, January 11, 2010.


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