Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, May 05, 2014

Boys, boys, boys

Demographics have a lot to do with government, politics, and international relations. China might be a classic example. This analysis was written by Valerie M. Hudson, a professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and Andrea den Boer, a senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. 

Will the Chinese regime become more authoritarian? Why?

(BTW: a woman who was a student in one of my comparative politics classes, Mara Hvistendahl, has written an excellent book about the primary causes of gender imbalance in China. It's titled Unnatural Selection.)

The security risks of China’s abnormal demographics
Fertility patterns, high birth-sex ratios and the resulting gender imbalance, when coupled with inequalities between rural and urban workers, have contributed to increases in societal instability characterized by a rise in violent crime, the numbers of secret societies and gangs, the levels of muscular nationalism, and prostitution and trafficking in women and children. These national effects, in turn, can have regional and international repercussions as they undermine national stability and security.

According to China’s 2010 Census, men currently outnumber women by at least 34 million, an imbalance in large part due to China’s fertility policy (known as the one child policy) and a preference for sons… The dearth of women among the young adult population is of particular concern to demographers, who estimate that the sex ratio of the marriageable population will continue to rise and will peak between 2030 and 2045, with the effect that at least 20 percent of men will be unable to marry. A surplus of 40-50 million bachelors throughout the mid- to late 21st century will have a significant effect on China’s stability and development as a nation: Male criminal behavior drops significantly upon marriage, and the presence of significant numbers of unmarriageable men is potentially destabilizing to societies. In the case of China, the fact that a sizeable percentage of young adult males will not be making that transition will have negative social repercussions, including increased crime, violent crime, crimes against women, vice, substance abuse and the formation of gangs that are involved in all of these antisocial behaviors…

The floating population is rapidly changing the landscape of China’s urban areas, and the Chinese government is aware of both the benefits and risks posed by internal migrants. The current floating population is young — 62 percent are under 35 and the majority of them have a junior high school level of education or less… In Guangdong province alone, the male migrant population outnumbers the female population by 3.1 million. The gender imbalance of migrants in these areas may mean that these areas are at risk for higher levels of crime and greater social instability. An estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of the floating population participates in criminal secret societies known as black societies (heishehui), groups believed to account for the majority of criminal activity in China, or in “dark forces” (e’shili), the more loosely organized criminal gangs. At the moment, China views the rise in gangs and increased crime rates as local, not national, problems, although many gangs are operating both nationally and internationally…

China’s demographic situation is further complicated by the increase in its aging population and the decline in the labor force… China’s impressive economic growth has been facilitated by its expanding working-age population: The population ages 15-64 increased by 55 percent between 1980 and 2005, but this age cohort is now in decline due to the declining fertility rate…

Aging will have a negative effect on economic growth through higher pension and healthcare costs, fewer low-income jobs, increased wage depression, slowing economic growth and job creation, declining interest from foreign investors, lower entrepreneurship, and higher budget deficits. Labor force declines also translate into lower tax revenues for governments, and if these governments are tempted by deficit financing, global financial stability may be compromised…

There appears to be an inevitable economic slowdown approaching in the global economy that will last well beyond the effects of the Great Recession of 2008, primarily due to aging trends in the most advanced economies… A society with a masculinized young adult population, such as China’s, is likely to respond to significant economic hardship with heightened domestic instability and crime. As a result, the Chinese regime may be hard pressed to maintain its usual control over society and to meet this internal security challenge, the regime may well become more authoritarian…

[A] government perceived as weak invites the contempt of its society’s young men who might also exploit vulnerabilities to undermine the regime’s control over the country. Governments quickly learn they must react swiftly and aggressively in the wake of perceived slights and insults from other countries… Faced with worsening instability at home and an unsolvable economic decline, China’s government may well be tempted to use foreign policy to “ride the tiger” of domestic instability…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

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1 Comments:

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

According to a new book, the potential problems caused by gender imbalance in China might be aggravated by the behavior of women who, knowing their relative scarcity, delay marriage while looking for the perfect guy. And the political response is to reduce the choices women have.

Pick and choose: Why women’s rights in China are regressing


"Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China. By Leta Hong

"IN 2007 China’s official Xinhua news agency published a commentary about women who were still unmarried at the age of 27 under the title, 'Eight Simple Moves to Escape the Leftover Woman Trap'. The Communist Party had concluded that young Chinese women were becoming too picky and were over-focused on attaining the “three highs”: high education, professional status and income. Newspapers have since reprinted similar editorials. In 2011 one said: 'The tragedy is they don’t realise that as women age they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their MA or PhD, they are already old, like yellowed pearls.'…

"Leta Hong Fincher, an American journalist-turned-academic, argues that the same party that pushed through the elevation of women’s status in the 1950s is now trying to engineer their return to the kitchen. The new campaign seems to be working. In 1990 urban Chinese women’s salaries were 78% of the level of men’s pay. In 2010, that had decreased to 67%. The female urban employment rate also fell, from 77% in 1990 to 61% in 2010…

"The party has joined an alliance of property companies and dating websites to confront the issue. Government surveys on marriage and property are often sponsored by matchmaking agencies, and perpetuate the perception that being “leftover” is the worst thing that can happen to a woman…

"Leftover Women is a compelling piece of original research, though the author may be over-egging the pudding a little. Compared with women in most developing countries Chinese women are still doing quite well. Even compared with Korea or Japan, in many areas of society their status and participation are high. And there are signs that they are fighting back. Determined not to be re-subjugated, some have taken a word that sounds like “leftover” in Chinese but means 'triumphant', and are using it to describe themselves and defend their decision to remain single."

 

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