As you celebrate Valentine's Day with your loved one today, spare a thought for the millions who will never have anyone to celebrate it with.
The recent crackdown on the booming sex trade in Dongguan has gained much media attention, with some articles suggesting it is the start of a new campaign to return to the strict "socialist morality" which had almost eliminated prostitution in China by the time the Open Door Policy reopened the door to it in the 1980s. However, basic biology tells us that any such campaign is doomed to failure. Apart from the entrenched corruption which protects the sex business, the one child policy combined with the traditional Chinese preference for sons over daughters has created a situation where male births exceed female ones by possibly as much as 15 to 20 percent.
This has created a situation where tens of millions of men - some estimates suggest 24 million by 2020 and 30 million by 2030 - will never find a wife (except perhaps in Tibet, where there is a tradition of one woman marrying several brothers). Figures vary - the most pessimistic projections suggest that 25% of men of marriageable age may never find a mate, while others argue that many female births are in fact being concealed from the authorities and the situation may be less severe than feared - but either way, it is simply unrealistic to expect that all these masses of unmarried men will be willing to remain celibate for their whole lives. The reality is that Chinese government policies have unwittingly created a social need for prostitution - a reality reflected in negative public reaction to the current clean-up campaign.
This is not the only irony in the situation. The very desire for a son to carry on the family name - so deeply ingrained in Chinese culture - has contributed to a situation in which many family lines will come to a dead end in the current generation. As the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for - you may get it.
Happy Valentine's Day!
P.S. After posting this, I read this story: China Valentine: No cinema seats for Shanghai couples. The SCMP's version of the story adds:
'China's growing population of singles has caused changes in the youthful perception of Valentine's Day. What was once viewed as a celebration of love is now the subject of discontent for some youngsters, and in the 1990s, "Single's Day" was a born as a rebellious answer to Valentine's Day.
Occuring on November 11, with the date 11/11 chosen for its appearence of "four single digits", Single's Day has evolved in recent years into one of the mainland's biggest days for online shopping.'
[The spelling and punctuation errors are the Post's, not mine.]