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The sad, strange phenomenon of China’s so-called “leftover women” — women criticised for being unmarried over the age of 27 — has left many around the world scratching their heads.Perhaps the saddest thing is that, the Chinese government and other establishments seem to encourage the concept. For example, China’s All-China Women’s Federation, a group founded in 1949 by the Communist Party to protect women’s rights, has this great advice on its website:
Pretty girls don’t need a lot of education to marry into a rich and powerful family, but girls with an average or ugly appearance will find it difficult. These kinds of girls hope to further their education in order to increase their competitiveness. The tragedy is, they don’t realise that as women age, they are worth less and less, so by the time they get their M.A. or Ph.D., they are already old, like yellowed pearls.
When you think about it, any kind of hysteria over unmarried Chinese women seems absurd. It’s well known that the Chinese government’s one-child policy has left China with far more males than females — one report from 2007 suggested that there would be 30 million more men of marriageable age than women by 2020. 11 of the 20 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese, according to Forbes.
So why worry about the women who are not married?
Perhaps the best explanation we’ve seen so far comes from Mary Kay Magistad of PRI’s the World: the “leftover women” are simply too high quality.
“There is an opinion that A quality guys will find B quality women, B quality guys will find C quality women, and C quality men will find D quality women,” Huang Yuanyuan, a 29-year-old unmarried Chinese woman tells her. “The people left are A quality women and D quality men. So if you are a leftover woman, you are A quality.”
These “A quality” women have often worked and studied hard for much of their lives, leaving their romantic lives til later. “While you’re at university your parents constantly discourage you from having relationships; they tell you to focus on your studies,” one so-called “leftover woman” told the Telegraph last year.
The problem is that these “A quality” women are exactly who China wants to be getting into relationships early, Leta Hong-Fincher, an American doctoral student at Tsinghua University’s Department of Sociology, tells Magistad.
“The Chinese population planning policy used to officially have a law promoting eugenics; they actually had the word ‘eugenics’ in the name,” Hong-Fincher, who has written about the imbalance before, says. “Now they’ve changed it, because they recognise that’s kind of offensive. But that’s what the family planning policy is.”
The aim is twofold — not only to have the “best” people procreating, but also to stop there being a large number of unsatisfied male elites.
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