With single young men at the heart of Arab world revolt, China might seem a country ripe for uprising. But while it’s got millions of single young men, they don’t appear interested in amassing a movement for change.
China now has at least 20 million young men with no chance of ever finding a female partner, according to population experts. In short, there are too many men. Demographers predict the gender gap will grow to 35 million by 2020. The reason: China’s one-child policy and a culturally ingrained preference for male children, along with a rise in accessible ultrasound technology and sex-selective abortion, led to a staggering surplus of young men born in the 1980s and 90s.
The overall trend is beginning to change for new families, but there remains a bubble of young men that can’t be reversed or repaired. So why aren’t they rising up and causing trouble for the authoritarian regime of China? In short, they’re too busy.
Andrea den Boer, co-author of the 2005 book “Bare Branches,” an in-depth investigation of surplus males and related potential security issues in Asia, said China’s situation is different than that of Egypt, which suffers from what is know as a “youth bulge.”
China has the millions of single young men, but what it’s missing is massive unemployment and economic decline. With the world’s fastest-growing large economy, opportunity is abundant. Development has reached every corner of the country and work opportunities have begun taking tens of thousands of young Chinese men to Africa and other parts of the world.
“The bare branches in China could potentially mimic the effect of a youth bulge given the large numbers of males, but they would have to have a motivation for unrest,” said den Boer, referencing her book title, taken from a Chinese term for unmarriageable young men. “Given the relative stability of China and the continued economic growth and low unemployment in the state at present, China isn’t at risk for large scale unrest.”
The Washington Post reports:
Chinese officials have repeatedly stated that their country’s authoritarian but economically vibrant system has nothing to fear from the spectacle of dictatorships crumbling in distant Arab lands. Yet officials have mobilized massive resources to chase what at times seem to be little more than phantoms of unrest.
Anonymous calls on the Internet for Chinese to rally each Sunday in protest, in Beijing and other major cities, have brought out throngs of uniformed and undercover police, but few actual protesters. Foreign journalists have been harassed and, in a few cases, beaten. Human rights groups estimate that scores of dissidents and lawyers have been detained or confined to their homes.
China’s so-called “jasmine rallies” are inspired by Tunisia’s January uprising, the first in what has since become a region-wide convulsion. There is no sign that most Chinese want to follow Tunisia’s example, but the heavy-handed response of authorities has played into the hands of the mysterious organizers of China’s so-far nonexistent revolt.