Friday, January 12, 2007

A battalion of bachelors

Martin Jacques on China in 2007:
"Predictions are a hazardous business at the best of times. In the case of China, they are positively dangerous. The country is so vast, and changing at such speed, that we should expect the unpredictable as much as the predictable."
Jacques always struck me as one of those former Marxists who found determinism the most difficult part of the Marxian model to let go of, so this was refreshing to read. I don't pay enough attention to what he writes to know whether this represents a change of mind on his part but he's surely right? One of the things about China that makes prediction even less likely to be accurate than usual is that its demographics are, to my knowledge, completely unprecedented.

One aspect of this is that China is the first country in history to grow old before it becomes economically wealthy.

The other is the demographic imbalance that the One-Child Policy has left in its wake. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be something in the region of 30 million men in China bereft of a mate - a battalion of bachelors roughly equivalent to the population of Canada.

The social and political implications of this, I wouldn't care to predict - beyond the observation that it's unlikely to be conducive to social harmony. I don't intend to be crude or reductionist but when it comes to understanding social dynamics, I take the view that the sexual aspect of the human condition tends to be neglected, compared to the economic. Most of the violence in the world is carried out by males over the age of puberty but before they have settled down and produced a few sproglets. And when there is no foreseeable prospect of producing the aforementioned sproglets, or at least participating in the enjoyable activity that, in the absence of contraception, leads to this - they are all the more dangerous.

Jason Burke
made this observation in relation to the development of radical Islam in Afghanistan. This was exacerbated by the highly uneven economic development in the country with Kabul pre-Taliban being much like any other city - mobile, anonymous, relatively cosmopolitan - and tantilising. To an excruciating degree for any young man brought up in the countryside where conservative social mores and, above all, the lack of privacy made the opportunities for sexual adventure limited in the extreme.

I'd reiterate that I don't intend to be reductionist here. Crucial elements in the production of violence throughout the world today include the deracination of males finding their way in societies where the state, if it exists at all, is unable to sustain a monopoly over the legitimate use of weaponry - and these conditions don't, as far as I'm aware, apply to China as it is today. However - and here I hope you'll forgive me for falling into Glaswegian crudity - as a friend of mine once put it, "There are few things on this earth more dangerous than a young man who cannae get his hole". Especially if they are living in poverty and/or under conditions of political repression.

May you live in interesting times. My understanding was that this saying, often wrongly understood as a kind of blessing, is taken by the Chinese to be a curse.

12 comments:

KB Player said...

Solving the problem of energy and rampant young manhood at a stroke:- 20 or 30 young males pedalling cycles on grooves or horizontal treadmills in pursuit of nubile woman. Cycles and treadmills attached to generators. Young males rendered exhausted and temporarily harmless, area of the city powered by renewable fuel.

Steve M said...

Good insights on China. Reading your last few postings I'd say you're definitely living up to your New Year's resolution. Thanks.

dearieme said...

Yellow Peril vs Islamonazis: that's what a far-sighted US President would be setting up.
Armies of frustrated young men surging through Central Asia while we argue about congestion charging for 4x4s.

Roland Dodds said...

Good post. I agree that the sexual aspects of political and social alignment is an often under talked about point that needs to be made. It will be interesting to see how things play out in China in the next 20 years…

Will said...

Utter bullshit Shuggy.

Biological determinist crap never got anyone anywhere. Rethink your new year's resolution. Quick.
X

Anon A Moss said...

"It is estimated that by 2020, there will be something in the region of 30 million men in China bereft of a mate - a battalion of bachelors roughly equivalent to the population of Canada.

The social and political implications of this, I wouldn't care to predict - beyond the observation that it's unlikely to be conducive to social harmony."


More homosexuality is needed.

Young Chinamen should be sent to boarding schools based on the English model - China intends to create a hundred Oxfords for the education of it's youth, but what it really needs is ten thousand Eton's where young men can learn to appreciate each other in a more erotic way than is usual with boys.

It worked with the Spartans, although great and dedicated warriors they had a helluva job getting those Spartan boys to wield their pork swords in the direction of Spartan womanhood.

Shuggy said...

Biological determinist crap never got anyone anywhere.

Bullshit to you too. It's not biological determinism; it isn't determinism of any kind.

Shuggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David B. Wildgoose said...

Nitpick: "May you live in interesting times" is not an ancient Chinese curse but rather was penned by the British SF author Eric Frank Russell, author of such classics as "And Then There Were None".

dearieme said...

Well said, dbw: I always suspected that it had the ring of untruth about it.

Will said...

"May you live in interesting times"
http://www.gentheoryrubbish.com/archives/000824.html

Neil Craig said...

Hire a Chinese volunteer division to pacify Afghanistan. I suspect they would find a lot of young women who would prefer living in Shanghai to an Afghan village.

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