Conventional wisdom about China’s infamous one-child policy states that it has led to a disastrous gender gap where there are 30-60 million women now missing from the Chinese population thanks a preference for boys over girls which resulted in mass sex-selective abortions and female infanticide particularly in rural areas.
Shi Yaojiang, a professor at Shaanxi Normal University, and John Kenny, an associate professor of political science at the University of Kansas, are challenging that conventional wisdom, asserting that millions and millions of Chinese girls actually went “missing” because of politics, and are now reappearing as women.
While China’s recently abolished one-child policy may have resulted in millions of sterilizations and abortions, it still didn’t stop many parents from having more than one kid. Some parents hid these “surplus” kids from local officials. However, some local officials took the practical approach of simply turning a blind eye to these children in the interest of social stability — not recording their births but not raising a fuss either.
As evidence for this theory, in a study in this month’s edition of the China Quarterly, the two researchers compared the number of children born in 1990 with the number of 20-year-old Chinese men and women in 2010. They discovered that were 4 million more 20-year-olds than there should be, with 1 million more women then men.
“If we go over a course of 25 years, it’s possible there are about 25 million women in the statistics that weren’t there at birth,” Kennedy said.
If this is true, it’s certainly good news for China’s desperate male bachelors who believed that they would have to purchase Vietnamese women on Taobao or else start sharing a wife to deal with the gender gap.
China finally did away with its one-child policy last year, in favor of a two-child one. Still, it remains controversial. Recently, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Mei Fong published a book on the policy’s history and repercussions. When she couldn’t find any Chinese-language publishers willing to publish her book, she decided to just make it available online for free instead. Which might be convenient, because it may need an update.
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