Projections from China’s National Bureau of Statistics have estimated that, by 2020, the country’s men will outnumber their female counterparts by 33.8 million—a situation now referred to an upcoming Bachelor Crisis.

According to NBS data, released earlier this week in the 2015 Blue Book of Cities, China’s gender imbalance reached its height in 2004, when 121.18 male babies were born for every 100 females.

Number of males born to every 100 females by year. Photo: NetEase.

Under normal circumstances, only 103 to 107 male babies should be born to every 100 females. Such was the case in China until 1980, when the government introduced the planned birth regime that would become known as the “one-child policy.”

Since then, sex-selective abortions and female infanticide, informed by a deeply ingrained cultural preference for sons, has created a wildly imbalanced sex ratio within the Chinese population.

As the new projections inspired thousands of comments online, one web user wryly observed that “all we have to do is fight another war to correct the imbalance.”

East Nanjing Road in Shanghai. Photo: Wikicommons.

Although the suggestion of sending China’s tens of millions of unmarriageable men to the front line may sound outrageous, increased violence and social instability are primary factors motivating recent relaxations in the government’s family planning policies.

As richer, urbanised men attract viable partners, poorer, rural hotbeds may increasingly fill with single men who can’t find women.

History repeating?
Not only does this threaten to boost demand for prostitution and the trafficking of girls and women, but a nation of single men could even endanger state security.

Past periods of unrest in Chinese history have been linked to similar demographic shifts. When female infanticide skewed the sex ratio of the Qing dynasty’s population in the 19th century, young men unable to find wives formed into armed bands and the imperial realm experienced a succession of armed revolts across the countryside that fatally weakened the Manchu regime, hastening its 1911 downfall.

As the Bachelor Crisis looms and China’s population is expected to experience negative growth from 2030, the time for further relaxations to family planning policy may also soon be at hand.

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others