The following line of thinking started off as a casual bar-room conversation with a cluey pom, and now the more I think it through (and add my own twist on things) the more it seems to ring true.
China has a massive demographic problem, one that it is only slowly realising. Since the introduction of the one-child policy in 1980, there has been a growing imbalance to the number of males to females who make it through infancy. Due to the partiarchal nature of Chinese society, families would generally rather their one child be a boy rather than a girl, in order to continue the family name, be more likely to find education and work etc. There are various ways to tip the balance in favour of a boy - diet around the time of conception, ultrasound followed by selective abortion, infanticide... The recorded male:female ratio is getting close to 120:100 in some cities. It is worth noting, though, that the one child policy has led to a high level of 'unreporting' of births (presumably more of females then of males) to avoid punishment of the parents from breaking the one-child law. Regardless, there is a ticking demographic timebomb, and something's gotta be done.
The one child policy started in 1980, which means that those born early in it's period are approaching the age of marriage and parenthood. Over the next couple of years, the problem will get worse and worse as more one-child-policy era babies grow up and are ready for kids of their own. Some quick arithmetic shows that even if every female was to marry (unlikely, of course, but let's presume) there would still be 1 in 6 males (that's males 101-120 over and above the 100 females) who were without a wife. In a country where the government has the answer to everything, just what is the answer to this connundrum.
- Encourage 1 in 6 Chinese males to become gay. At 120,000,000, that's one hell of a Mardi Gras down Nanjing East Road in Shanghai. Next.
- Import a large number of single, marriagable women. Not really a practical option given that both China is not alone with the gender dilemma, and also the incredible overpopulation that led to the one-child policy in the first place. Keep trying.
- A massive population 'cull', targetting primarily males in their late-20s and below. Bingo?
As cruel and painful as it sounds, this is the most realistic option for the Chinese government to prevent having hundreds of millions of angry, militant, and possibly revolutionary young men on their hands. Of course, it would be unfathomable to have an overt, culling of the population. But what if it could be done covertly, passively, through inaction rather than action? Surely the world would have nothing to latch it's opposition on to?
Here's where the theory turns conspiratorial. Two significant causes of male death in this country are through mining accidents and smoking. In both cases, the deaths are frequent, the result of private rather than public actions, and easily preventable. Occupational health and safety standards in the coal mines of this country and appallingly bad, and surely even in povertry-stricken, bureaucracy-riddled China, if the will power was there to improve working standards, then there would be action on the mines. Alas, there is not and accident after accident continues. Ditto smoking, which is met with minimal public health campaigns, and is largely supported by the government who has an effective tobacco monopoly. Added bonus through all this is that males, and young males in the case of the mines, are almost exclusively the victims.
So with male population out of control and a socially and politically acceptable way to dispose of surplus population, is this yet another chapter in the social engineering that the Chinese seem to be so fond of?