"China has a gender crisis. The country has a huge surplus of men – around 722
million compared to 690 million women in 2022. This is largely because of
sex-selective abortions linked to China’s one-child policy, which ended in
Though popular belief is that the policy was strictly enforced, many Chinese
couples managed to have more than one child by paying fines, accepting benefit
deprivations, or proclaiming their membership of a minority ethnic group.
Often, they chose to do so because their first child was a girl. The one-child
policy lasted three and a half decades, replaced by the two-child policy in
2016 and the three-child policy in 2021. But even today, the belief that boys
have more value than girls persists.
Traditionally, having a male heir is believed essential in continuing the
family bloodline and surname. Women, on the other hand, are expected to “marry
out” of their kin into their husband’s family, where they become obliged to
take care of their in-laws and produce sons. But in some families who also have
sons, the daughters are expected to financially provide for their birth
This cultural norm has affected the wellbeing of young women, many of whom now
suffer from financial, labour and emotional abuse as a result of son
Popular Chinese television series in recent years – Ode to Joy
(2019) and I Will Find You a Better Home
(2020) – have sparked
renewed attention to the family discrimination and ill-treatment that many
female children continue to endure in contemporary Chinese society.
Many of these women have taken to social media to discuss their situation. In
my recent research, I studied some of the thousands of posts and video clips
dedicated to the topic of son preference, posted on Chinese websites like Zhihu
(a Q&A forum) and Bilibili (a video-sharing site). My findings show how
difficult it is for women to break this exploitative relationship, even when
they have grown up."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics