December 28, 2014

Radish and Hoe

In Beijing, my colleague and I were returning to the office after lunch. A girl passed by in front of us. Her boyfriend, obediently carrying her purse, followed a few steps behind. She was not aesthetically pleasing, causing my non-judgmental eyes to widen. "Even she has a boyfriend!" I exclaimed. "Every radish has a hoe" explained my coworker, unperturbed by the whole affair.

For every 100 girls born in China today there are around 120 baby boys born. It is estimated that there is a surplus of more than 33 million men in the mating market. With so many young men and so few women, the situation I encountered is not altogether unsurprising.

A desire for a son is common in societies across the world. In Korea, sons are expected to carry on the family names - Kim, Park, and Lee. China is no different. This preference combined with limitations on how many babies can be popped out in major cities has led to a severe shortage of the gamete producers in recent decades. The sex ratio imbalance means prospective husbands must possess either higher and higher net worths or lower and lower standards if they wish to be betrothed, while aspiring wives have the pick of a rather unimpressive litter.