By 2020 there will be 30 million more young men than women in China. In a one-party state that values social stability above all, this disaffected and frustrated element of the population is cause for concern
When Liu returned to his childhood village to celebrate Chinese New Year, his parents had arranged a familiar and depressing task for him: a series of speed dates. Over a week back in rural Jiangxi province, he met half a dozen potential wives in encounters he says felt more like job interviews. He expects to go through the same process next year, without much hope of success.
For Jin, who works with Liu in the factories of Chinas Pearl River Delta, the cajoling matchmaker was his second cousin. My cousin brought [the date] to meet me in a public square in the village, then left us together, Jin recalls. A few minutes in, this girl made it clear that owning an apartment would be essential, but she could wait till later for a car. And shed be OK if the apartment wasnt in the centre of the town, but I had to have a deposit of at least 200,000 yuan [about 22,500].
In recent years, the patriarchal Chinese state has launched campaigns warning unmarried urban females over the age of 27 of the perils of becoming leftover women. But in reality due to sex-selective abortions, a traditional preference for sons and the countrys one-child policy theres a far larger cohort of leftover men.
Official state media put the male-to-female ratio at 136:100 among unmarried people born since the 1980s. Professor Jin Tiankui, an influential sociologist in Chinas policy-making circle, predicts that by 2020 there will be 30 million more men than women in the 2440 age bracket.
Liu and Jin blame their lack of romantic success on their low social status as migrant workers from rural provinces. The state says there are about 278 million others like them, the backbone of the countrys wildly successful manufacturing, construction and service industries. They embody the nations most intractable problems of inequality loneliness included.