The Tampa Bay Times is reporting a proposal by a Chinese economics professor to deal with the fallout of the country’s decades’ long One Child policy: allow marriage between one woman and multiple husbands.
Below are some excerpts about Professor Xie Zuoshi’s idea:
By 2020, China will have an estimated 30 million bachelors — called guanggun, or “bare branches.” Birth control policies that since 1979 have limited many families to one child, a cultural preference for boys and the widespread, if illegal, practice of sex-selective abortion have contributed to a gender imbalance that hovers around 117 boys born for every 100 girls.
“With so many guanggun, women are in short supply and their value increases,” he wrote. “But that doesn’t mean the market can’t be adjusted. The guanggun problem is actually a problem of income. High-income men can find a woman because they can pay a higher price. What about low-income men? One solution is to have several take a wife together.”
He added: “That’s not just my weird idea. In some remote, poor places, brothers already marry the same woman, and they have a full and happy life.”
Polyandry has been practiced before in China, particularly in impoverished areas, as a way to pool resources and avoid the breakup of property.
“If you can’t find a solution that doesn’t violate traditional morality,” he continued, “then why do you criticize me for violating traditional morality? You are in favor of a couple made up of one man, one woman. But your morality will lead to 30 million guanggun with no hope of finding a wife. Is that your so-called morality?”
In addition to provoking guardians of traditional morality, the proposal has been pilloried by feminists and gay rights advocates.
“Men are publicly debating how to allocate women, as though women were commodities like houses or cars, in order to realize some grand political ideal originating from either the patriarchal left or the patriarchal right,” Zheng Churan, one of five women’s rights activists detained in March, wrote in an essay for a WeChat group called Groundbreaking.
“Behind the imbalanced sex ratio of 30 million bachelors lie 30 million baby girls who died due to sex discrimination. But somehow everyone’s still crying that some men can’t find wives.”
Xie also has supporters. On his Sina blog, he posted a comment from a student at Nanchang Hangkong University. “You are standing alongside the poorest working-class people,” the student wrote. “When there’s no better way, why don’t we get rid of so-called morality and solve society’s problems?”
This is certainly an interesting debate about family law issues abroad.
Adam B. Cordover practices exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution.