Having traveled a bit in China’s interior years ago and to Hong Kong several times, I’ve always taken interest in developments there. Now China features heavily in the trafficking news crossing my path, as well as the daily economic and political links between East and West.
I find their current situation both fascinating in it’s alienness and acutely troubling in potential outcomes. The inevitable aftermath of the one-child policy has come into play in ever-widening arenas. It’s hard to believe the leadership overseeing it were oblivious to an unavoidable outcome, or acting without logic and purpose.
The most obvious result, the female gendercide/infanticide is as old as many cultures, and in China the modern incarnation has been well documented for decades. I observed it’s effect in several provinces before the massive development of it’s industrial cities, and the bizarrely-linked availability of ultrasound technology to the masses.
In the more remote regions, girl children were sometimes kept until a boy was born. I was familiar with underground efforts to smuggle female infants out of the country, unfortunately without success. Except when politically advantageous, the government preferred infant death to being raised by non-Chinese or “ghosts”. Terrible stories echoed everywhere of parents told by local “seers” that an impending 2nd child was a boy, and upon murdering the firstborn child gave birth to another girl. Tales of mothers who went mad over such trauma were rife.
The only “happy” people I encountered in my travels were from extremely remote regions; for the most part left alone by the government and able to cherish their families and children. My photographs from that time showed the stark contrast of the physical and ideological distance.
Now increased hardship and pressure in a variety of decisions faces even those in remote and economically depressed areas, creating trauma in an ever widening circle to distant countries. Faced with huge numbers of males from infant-age well into adulthood and on with no hope of obtaining brides, or counted-upon dowries, families are resorting to buying brides from a number of sources.
Debt bondage trafficking is used when financial leverage is obtained to force a family to give up a daughter and extort a dowry by threatening harm or death to the bride. If a bride gives birth to girls she may be killed and replaced in the same fashion.
Since the shortage is so drastic, a swiftly growing numbers of girls are bought and trafficked from outside the country. Slavers bring them from a wide range of countries. Often the girls are bought by a promise to impoverished parents of employment or a wealthy husband and transportation and minimal food are the only costs. Another burden on these already marginalized and severely abused females is racial. They are not Chinese and therefore vastly inferior, ranking somewhere below livestock.
Families may even purchase an infant female when their male child is old enough to be assured of thriving so they can have the training of the future wife. This type of trafficking is growing exponentially
A puzzling piece is that while large numbers of babies, children and women are being trafficked in, there are still large numbers of women being trafficked out of China. The males are to be expected. The surplus, with no hope of marriage accept fraudulent job offers or may be sold by families who cannot afford to raise them.
The cosmopolitan centers have an entirely different problem, eloquently written about in this article by Christina Larson for Foreign Policy: The Startling Plight Of China’s Leftover Ladies
I understand the Chinese tone in the article but it doesn’t seem to associate these successful, educated women being more aligned with the West than China in their thinking. They are breaking from the “No separate entity but part of the Whole” mentality and appear unwilling to surrender their hard-earned position to return to a Chinese model of feminine life.
The extremes of the gender based problems in China, India and other cultures with sometimes brutal gender bias is hard to grasp from a Western perspective. Keeping the gap bridged even within the countries seems impossible while keeping the societal structure intact. Slavery and infanticide on one end; huge surplus of males and the most educated and self-aware who can’t or won’t marry at the other.
Mathematics and the world’s dawning awareness and opposition to human trafficking would suggest that China will be unable to obtain even a fraction of the women they’ll need to reverse the large and growing imbalance. What exactly will China do with those many, millions of single males? What can’t they do?