To deal with a perceived population problem 35 years ago, China institued a one-child policy: parents were allowed to have only one child. Because there seems to have been an inexplicable preference for having sons, people took various measures to make sure their one child was male. The ratio of males to females jumped from about 1.05 before the policy was implemented to about 1.20.
According to some female students from Fudan University whom I taught a few years ago at the Bader International Studies Centre, a woman who was born an only child under the one-child policy would then be allowed to have two children.
But the sex imbalance has led to numerous problems, not least of which is a shortage of eligible women to become wives of all the young men. This ramification of the policy has led to some serious problems for young women in SE Asia.
China suffers from one of the worst gender imbalances in the world as families prefer male children.
As a result millions of men now cannot find Chinese brides -- a key driver of trafficking, according to rights groups.
And here is the problem:
Vulnerable women in countries close to China -- not only Vietnam but also North Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar -- are being forced into marriages in the land of the one-child policy, experts say.
Here is just one example:
When Kiab turned 16, her brother promised to take her to a party in a tourist town in northern Vietnam. Instead, he sold her to a Chinese family as a bride....
The Lao Cai shelter currently houses a dozen girls from various ethnic minority groups. All say they were tricked by relatives, friends or boyfriends and sold to Chinese men as brides.
"I had heard a lot about trafficking. But I couldn't imagine it would happen to me," Kiab said.
As trafficking is run by illegal gangs and the communities involved are poor and remote, official data is patchy and likely underestimates the scale of the problem, experts say.
But rights workers across Southeast Asia say they are witnessing "systematic" trafficking of women into China for forced marriages.
I suggested to the young women from Fudan that the ratio must have made their options considerably better in seeking a life partner. They didn't seem to think so, but my own sense was that as a father during that regime, I might have preferred having a daughter to having a son. Surely the young women fare much better on average in the marriage market with such a sex imbalance among newborns.
Addendum: from Michael Connelly's Nine Dragons:
Bosch did not know the specifics of China’s one-child policies but he was aware of them. It was a population containment plan that resulted in a higher value being placed on male births. Newborn females were often abandoned in orphanages or worse. Rather than giving up Mia, the Li family had left the country for the US.
People respond to incentives.