fixing the “bare branches” problem

from new scientist on trying to fix the “bare branches” problem in china:

“How great is the gender imbalance in China?

“In 2005, there were 32 million more men than women under the age of 20 in China. Young men with no prospect of marriage become a disruptive force in society. And with no one to marry, they will have no children and no one to take care of them when they are too old to work.

“Is the imbalance an unintended consequence of China’s one-child policy?

“Gender-selective abortions exacerbate the problem of dwindling birth rates. In China, a son is not just a source of pride, but a financial necessity. A daughter leaves home to join her husband’s family after marriage, so her parents have no one to care for them in their old age….

“How do you stop sex-selective abortion?

“In rural areas it is easier to enforce the rules as most doctors are government employees. The local Family Planning Commission official may monitor pregnancies to ensure that mothers do not abort for reasons other than a medical issue. In cities the policy is harder to enforce, and a black market for sonogram services has emerged.”

and here’s a little more background from the nyt from a few years ago:

“Surplus males: The dangers of Asia’s preference for sons”

“The most populous nations in Asia, including China, India and Pakistan, have acted upon their deep cultural preference for sons by culling daughters from their populations through the use of ever more efficient sex selective technologies….

“The technology to select male offspring before birth began to spread in the late 1980s, and the birth sex ratios began to rise. In China, the official ratio is 117 boys born for every 100 girls, but the reality is probably 120 or more. In India, the official birth sex ratio is 111-114 boys per 100 girls, but spot checks show ratios of up to 156 boys per 100 girls in some locales. For comparison, normal birth sex ratios are 105-107 boys born per 100 girls.

The mortality rate for girls and young women is also much higher than normal in these countries, further exacerbating the deficit. For example, the U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates excess deaths among Chinese females in the first year of life alone to be close to half a million. In India, almost one million more girls than boys die in the first five years of life….”

sounds like infanticide to me. here’s some more:

“Using conservative estimates, in 2020 India will have about 28 million more young males (aged 15 to 34) than young females. In China, the figure will be closer to 30 million; in Pakistan it will probably be 3-5 million.

“In China there is a term for such young men: guang gun-er, or ‘bare branches’ on the family tree — males who will probably not raise families of their own because the girls who should have grown up to become their wives fell victim to female infanticide.

The ‘bare branch’ populations in China and India, comprising about 12 to 15 percent of their young adult males, will be overwhelmingly poor, uneducated, unskilled and possibly unemployed. Throughout the millennia in which son preference has been effected in China, India and Pakistan, the bare branches have been one of the most volatile elements in society, frequently causing great social instability through crime and violence, and when uniting in a common movement, an important threat to the government itself.

“In Chinese history, for example, the Nien Rebellion, the Black Flag Army, the Boxers, the Eight Trigrams Rebellion and even the famous Shaolin fighting monks were all essentially bare-branch collectives doing what they did best: using force to acquire the resources otherwise denied them.

“The Nien, for example, came from an impoverished province where the sex ratio was 129 to 100. They began as petty bandits and smugglers, but soon coalesced into larger criminal brotherhoods. At the height of the rebellion, their leaders could boast of an army of more than 100,000 bare branches, which controlled an area populated by almost six million persons….

China is already experiencing a tremendous increase in crime, and 50 to 90 percent of the crimes in the large cities are committed by bare-branch migrants. Over the course of history, Chinese rulers’ response to the bare branches was to battle them, expel them or co-opt them as soldiers. All Chinese governments have understood that the bare branches are a formidable club — if it is in your hand it can be useful, but poised over your head it is a serious security threat.

“Indeed, the very type of government to which a nation can aspire is affected by a sex ratio abnormally favoring males. History demonstrates that such societies cannot be governed by anything less than an authoritarian political system. Furthermore, high-sex-ratio societies typically develop a foreign policy style crafted to retain the respect and allegiance of its bare branches — a swaggering, belligerent, provocative style….”

terrific.

previously: india and china’s missing girls and mara hvistendahl is a… and mara hvistendahl responds to dawkins

(note: comments do not require an email. oh, look! another penguin! (^_^) )

12 Comments

  1. I found this interesting (from the New Scientist interview):

    “Is the Care for Girls campaign working?
    It’s hard to say, as it has only operated on a national level for five years. Recent census data indicates that ratios are holding steady in most places. In one province, which in 1990 had the highest imbalance, the ratio dropped to 110 boys per 100 girls, comparable to that of South Korea, a nation seen as a successful model for reducing son preference.”

    What can you tell us about South Korea?

    Reply

  2. @cinnamon – “What can you tell us about South Korea?”

    next to nothing, i’m afraid! i’m woefully ignorant about east asia, and the little i do know relates to either china or japan. i don’t know anything about how south korea has tackled its “bare branches” problem.

    in relation to the more general meta-topic of this blog (i.e. inbreeding), however, i did read recently on wikipedia (so it must be true (~_^) ) that south korea has been very restrictive in allowing relatives to marry:

    “In the East, South Korea is especially restrictive with bans on marriage out to third cousins, with all couples having the same surname and region of origin having been prohibited from marrying until 1997.”

    don’t know if this is of any interest to you. i found it interesting, of course. (^_^)

    that’s all i know about korea. oh, and that they have absolutely fabulous traditional costumes for women. i want one!

    Reply

  3. “China is already experiencing a tremendous increase in crime”

    I was just thinking this ought ot be true if the (PCT/R) * PD equation was true. Rural areas wouldn’t need to breed out aggressive traits as much as the more densely populated cities so as each country industrializes and the peasants move into tthe cities the crime should shoot up even without bare branchs (though made worse if that applies also).

    When Britain went through it they had either transportation or migration to America as pressure relief valves. (I’m also wondering if each European country’s immigration-wave to America happened as they each industrialized.)

    I don’t think this can end well.

    Reply

  4. let me see if I get this.
    China has always had a surplus of men, quite big even. India AFAIK too.
    Hell not even in Europe did always all men get to marry. Historically there’s always been unmarriable men. And that’s good, it increases competition for good genes.

    But now that is a bad thing, because the only way to maintain democracy is to get everyone to marry (and reproduce). So democracy is more important than basic biology?

    Fuck it I say

    Reply

  5. The bare branch issue is indeed a serous social problem in China. And the government is very much battling against the sexist thoughts of favoring boys over girls in the countryside (in cities the sex imbalance is not really an issue). True that often times I heard from the Chinese media that some bare branch countryside migrant workers committed some crimes and got caught with cheap hookers and so on.

    But to link the cause of the increase of crime rate in China to the bare branch, that is a bit too over-simplification of the social mess in China.

    Reply

  6. “Maybe they’ll invade Afghanistan and institute conscription?”

    Maybe. I don’t think they’d be that daft but if industrialization equals a big jump in *experienced* population density i.e. same number of people with same surface area but a different distribution, then that higher experienced population density would drive more internal conflict and one way of letting off that kind of steam is re-directing it externally.

    Obviously one way of doing this is simply migration so it doesn’t neccessarily lead to Genghis Han part 2.

    Reply

  7. @g.w. – “I was just thinking this ought ot be true if the (PCT/R) * PD equation was true. Rural areas wouldn’t need to breed out aggressive traits as much as the more densely populated cities….”

    good point! coming from a long line of country bumpkins, i have to say that a lot of the country types i have met (including many members of my own family) seem more ready to throw a punch than city folk. (~_^)

    i’ve often wondered if there’s something epigentic to this — i.e. that city dwellers, growing up in cities, have certain “genes for violence” turned off or turned down. something to do with the density. dunno. ??

    Reply

  8. @wttybt – “Maybe they’ll invade Afghanistan and institute conscription?”

    terrific. and maybe they’d hit all the other stans first, too, on their way to afghanistan.

    Reply

  9. @spandrell – “But now that is a bad thing, because the only way to maintain democracy is to get everyone to marry (and reproduce). So democracy is more important than basic biology?”

    i’m not wedded to democracy. (~_^) what does worry me is china and india being powder kegs ’cause of having too many young men.

    Reply

  10. spandrell

    “let me see if I get this”

    No, you don’t.

    .
    “China has always had a surplus of men, quite big even. India AFAIK too…But now that is a bad thing. Hell not even in Europe did always all men get to marry”

    It has always been a potential cause of problems. The key factor is SCALE.

    .
    “because the only way to maintain democracy is to get everyone to marry (and reproduce).”

    Who mentioned democracy?

    .
    “So democracy is more important than basic biology? Fuck it I say”

    Bare branches causing a problem *if it’s on too big a scale* IS basic biology.

    Reply

  11. TheSlittyEye
    “But to link the cause of the increase of crime rate in China to the bare branch, that is a bit too over-simplification of the social mess in China.”

    I think that was me mixing two separate issues together. I have a theory that crime would go up dramatically with industrialisation (like it did in England) because crime is related to the population density a particular population is used to so when rural people flock to the cities they are suddenly subjected to pressures they are not adapted for (as an average).

    In simple terms its GIV ~ (PCT/R) * PD
    where
    GIV = internal group violence
    PCT = potential criminal traits
    R = restraint traints
    PD = population density

    So if PCT or PD goes up then crime and internal violence goes up. If R goes up then crime and internal violence goes down.

    The theory is that when humans first moved into cities (or any setting with a higher population density than they were used to) then the level internal violence would go up. There would be a criminal justice reaction to this to bring internal violence down to an acceptable level. The pressure of the criminal justice response began a process of reducing the frequency of PCT traits and increasing the frequency of R traits among city-dwellers basically through the action of criminal sanctions on the most impulsively violent men over thousands of years e.g. execution, banishment, prison.

    In numerical terms if the threshold for acceptable levels of internal group violence was 10 and you increased population density went from 1 to 10 then levels of PCT and R might go something like
    1) 10 and 1. (10/1)*1 = 10
    2) 10 and 2 (10/2)*2 = 10
    3) 9 and 3 (9/3)*3 = 9
    4) 8 and 3 (8/3)*4 = 10 2/3
    5) 8 and 4 (8/4)*5 = 10
    etc

    As population density goes up there’s a proportionate increase in the social and cultural selection pressure to reduce the frequency of PCT traits and increase the frequency of R traits.

    (Relating this back to the subject matter of this blog i think one of the reasons population density has this effect is it is a proxy for average relatedness. If there is genetic level restraint i.e. people find it harder to harm those they are closely related to, then a peasant in a village is likely to very related to almost everyone they come into daily contact with. If he moves to the city then he will be suddenly living with many people he is only very distantly related to and the average level of genetic restraint will plummet.)

    I hadn’t read anything about crime in China but i was wondering if the the same thing was happening as happened in Britain. Britain’s solution to the sudden explosion of social chaos that resulted from industrialisation was a) an extremely lethal criminal code b) transportation c) migration d) empire.

    If the theory is at least partly true then one potential help might be stipulating that people from particular rural districts had to live in particular urban neighborhoods i.e. that people from district A had to live in neighborhood x and people from district B had to live in neighborhood y so you maximize the genetic closeness among the males at least and reduce the violence.

    .
    hbdchick
    “i’ve often wondered if there’s something epigentic to this — i.e. that city dwellers, growing up in cities, have certain “genes for violence” turned off or turned down. something to do with the density. dunno. ??”

    Yes it’s interesting because in many ways they are both *more* boisterous and umm, earthy, and yet at the same time there’s less serious crime and violence.

    Reply

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