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Are African and foreign men who marry Chinese women making China’s population problems worse?

Eric Olander and Cobus Van Staden of The China Africa Project write about interracial relationships between Chinese women and foreign men and why it is common to see foreign men with Chinese women than the other way round.

Interracial Chinese and Black Family (Used for descriptive purposes only)

I really enjoyed the Q&A podcast and I have my own question that I hope can be discussed. It’s about interracial relationships between Chinese women and foreign men. It is much more common to see foreign men with Chinese women than the other way around. In China, this is a big problem because it’s widely reported that China will have 20-30 million more men than women by the year 2020. So, given this big population problem that China confronts, are African and other foreign men contributing to this imbalance?

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-- Samuel via Facebook

Dear Samuel, the short answer is no. African men and other foreigners who are dating and marrying Chinese women are not to blame. China's surplus of men is a huge problem, deeply rooted in Chinese population policy and cultural values. So it really has nothing to do with the relatively small number of foreign men who marry Chinese women.

You’re right that it’s far more common to see a foreign man, African or otherwise, together with a Chinese woman than it is to see a Chinese man with a foreign woman. Therefore it won’t surprise you or anyone else that this imbalance is a touchy subject for a lot of Chinese guys who face way more difficulties finding women to date and marry than men do in other countries do.

What a lot of people outside of China don’t realize is just how messed up the country’s population is when it comes to the ratio of guys to girls. Back in 1980, the Chinese government imposed the now infamous “one child policy” that strictly limited each family to only, well, one child. For reasons related to both culture and family-economics, a lot of parents (too many in fact) felt that it was better to have a boy rather than a girl, sparking an entire underground industry where people would get sonograms just to find out the gender of their child, resulting in millions of abortions of female fetuses.

Today it’s a full-blown crisis. Even though the government relaxed the one child policy to now allow for families to have two children, that won’t help the situation in the short term. With 20-30 million more men than women and a sex ratio of somewhere around 115 men for 100 women, this problem is going to take years, even decades to fix.

One of the interesting consequences of this crisis is that some Chinese prejudices towards marrying someone who is not ethnically Han (basically the race of 91% of the Chinese population) is starting to relax. A lot of parents are so desperate to have their sons get married that they’ll accept a foreigner, any foreigner, which would have been unheard just a generation ago.

So as more Chinese men go abroad to work in places like Nigeria, Ghana and elsewhere in Africa, it may become more common that they also look for a bride because the statistical odds of even finding a woman to marry, are likely to be better in other countries than they are back home in China.

-- Eric

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