In response to a growing gender imbalance in their home country, Chinese men look elsewhere to find partners
This isn't my normal focus, but I found this dispatch
from the good people at ChinaSmack amusing. The post is replete with
photos and ruminates on the growing phenomenon of Chinese men marrying
African women, as Chinese presence in Africa continues to expand. Here
is what it had to say:
Chinese women marrying blacks is no longer
something rare, whereas in comparison men very rarely dare to bring
black girls back home to China. I won't say anything and go ahead and
post the photos.
In my neighborhood is a Chinese engineer who
returned from Angola, and his wife is a black girl. However, she's one
of those very pretty high-end black girls. She's very slender and not
one of those fat auntie types. Her skin also isn't the kind of
oily/greasy black but rather black-brownish and more brown. They have
two children, about five or six years old, twin boys.
their appearance, unfortunately, the father's genes were really too
strong. Aside from their skin being slightly darker, their faces look
very much like their daddy.
Large-scale marrying of African women can effectively solve China's male-female sex-ratio imbalance problem!
only is the policy prescription of relying on interracial marriages to
solve China's complex gender imbalances as preposterous as the "babe tax,"
the racial comments (translated from Chinese) are fairly typical of the
impolitic language used in China. It's pretty blase by Chinese
standards, but certainly would be considered offensive in the West.
A taste of the photos and associated captions:
"This is a photo of a young Fujian guy with his African wife in Congo. They run a restaurant there to make a living, I've eaten there once, it wasn't bad. The young couple are able to communicate in Chinese."
Shandong migrant worker who married a wife in Africa and gave birth to a
daughter. His African wife passing away from illness when the daughter
was two-years-old and he raises his daughter alone planting vegetables
in the suburbs of Nairobi being bother father and mother to her. Not
easy! What a great Shandong man! A great Chinese man!"
is a Chinese man and African woman's child. I've always wondered, is
this child i considered Chinese or not? Very confusing!!!"
"The son of a wealthy Sichuan Chinese businessman who married last year's Miss Kenya!!! Strongly recommend!!!"
won't say anymore, other than if you so choose, read the comments,
which range from the awkward and strange to grating and outright
offensive. This diverse range of opinions, on such a narrow topic, is as
much a part of contemporary China as the head-cracking underway to
quell the spate of protests.
of the many accomplishments of Hvistendahl's book is to show that there
have been additional "contradictions" at work in the pan-Asian "missing
women" phenomenon. For simplicity's sake, we can boil these down to
contradictions linked to visions of what it means to be "modern" and
contradictions tied to technology.
A central element in the first
sort of contradiction pre-dates the implementation of the one-child
family policy. It goes back to Western writings in the 1950s and 1960s
that harped on the apocalyptical implications of high birth-rates in the
Here, in a much stripped down form, is my
paraphrasing of the way Hvistendahl lays out the situation, in sections
that owe and acknowledge a considerable debt to Columbia University
historian Matthew Connelly's important book, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (Harvard University Press, 2008):
only, some proponents of "population bomb" thinking argued, methods
could be found to ensure that couples outside of the West embraced more
"modern" small family ideals. Given the strong bias toward sons in many
places, one thing needed was to make sure that couples who kept having
daughters would not just keep trying and trying to have a male
offspring. To solve the problem of overpopulation, the key would be to
convince couples that having more than two children was no longer
feasible (the planet could not take having people procreate at more than
just this replacement level)--and allow them to be confident that one
of those children would be a son (e.g., if their first child was a girl,
give them much better than a 105 to 100 chance that the second would be
a boy). But something was left out of the equation here: if a magical
means could suddenly appear to guarantee that hundreds of millions of
couples wanting to stop at two children, who had a girl first, had a boy
next, the result would be a dangerously off kilter demographic picture.
There would soon be an incredibly large number of men who would be
expected to marry (and for the most part would want to marry), but would
grossly outnumber eligible women.
Turning to technology, recent
decades have seen moves toward--or full realization of--various sex
selection methods that can alter the odds dramatically in favor of
having a son or daughter, depending on a couple's wishes. These range
from the relatively low-tech (sonogram machines that reveal the sex of a
fetus) to methods so high-tech they border on science fiction (fiddling
with genes to produce babies with sought-after traits). The
contradiction here is that, while reports of skewed gender ratios in
China in the 1980s sometimes focused on the re-emergence of a very old
method of diminishing the number of girls in an area (infanticide by
drowning), the single biggest factor in the current tilt toward boys in
many parts of Asia has been sex-selective abortion by couples who have
learned, after amniocentesis or more often a sonogram, that a pregnancy
(in many cases, a second or third one in a son-less family) would lead
to a daughter's birth.
What we have here is a messy combination
of factors that take us far beyond a clash between "traditional" values
and state policies. We find instead situations in which old preferences
are reinforced by new practices (e.g., the economic reforms in the
Chinese countryside) and can be acted upon by using new machines. There
is no "typical" Asian couple responsible for contributing to the large
number of "excess men" (males growing up in areas with too few female
age mates), but Hvistendahl shows that, when imagining one, we might do
well to conjure up a couple striving to embrace a modern ideal (only
having two children) and making use of modern technologies, rather than
let our minds think only of a "traditional" and "backward" pair who need
to be educated by the state to have their ideas brought up to date.
demographic implications for economic growth, not just in China but
globally, could well force some interesting and unexpected policy
choices over the next decade.