The New York Times has an interesting story about land markets in China. In order to get married a man needs to own property and land prices are very high in China. As it its habit, the Times blames “overeager developers who force residents out of old neighborhoods.”
In fact, the Times gets it backwards. The information needed to understand the issue is in the story: “The marriage competition is fierce, and statistically, women hold the cards. Given the nation’s gender imbalance, an outgrowth of a cultural preference for boys and China’s stringent family-planning policies, as many as 24 million men could be perpetual bachelors by 2020, according to the report.” So what is happening is that there is a shortage of marriageable women and it is competition for the land needed to attract these women that is driving up land prices.
This competition is one unfortunate side effect of the one child policy and the Chinese preference for boys. These 24 million unmarriageable men are going to be a long term problem for China. In my book Darwinian Politics I argue that a large core of perpetual bachelors makes a free and open society difficult because this core will lead to social instability; the argument is also forcefully made in Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. Den Boer.
Much has been written about the problem of China’s aging population but I don’t think we have paid enough attention to the issues of gender imbalance. More generally, I think much of the course of world politics over the next century is going to be driven by major demographic trends, and I think these worthy of increased study. Nicholas Eberstadt of AEI is doing this sort of work, but I think there is much more to be done.