You can’t solve every problem with pure logic. Learning that the hard way is Zhejiang University economics professor Xie Zuoshi. He’s on the receiving end of a nation’s wrath after he suggested wife sharing to solve China’s gender imbalance issue.
News reports say that China’s gender ratio at birth is about 1.02 to 1.07 boys born for every girl, an imbalance created because of the one-child policy and the cultural preference for male children. As a result, men, especially in rural China, are finding it increasingly difficult to get married. In fact, the nation is expected to have 30 to 40 million bachelors by the year 2020.
In the face of such alarming statistics, Prof Xie wrote an essay highlighting what he believes is the most obvious solution – that men of lower incomes should share wives. He reasoned that the huge demand for wives would increase their value, making them unaffordable to poorer men. “Men with high incomes will have an advantage in finding women, because they can afford the high price,” he wrote. “And what about the low income men? One way is for several men to band together to find a wife.”
As logical as he sounds, Prof Xie has might have failed to look beyond economics – he seems to be viewing as women as ‘commodities’ with values that fluctuate with supply and demand. And that has angered citizens across the nation. Thousands have criticized his idea, calling it immoral and illegal.
“If you can’t find a mate then don’t bother, if women are just only meant for producing heirs and have to mate with many men just to solve the population growth issue, how does that make us any different from animals,” a Weibo user wrote.
“In this logic, women become commodities that can be traded,” wrote another. “But he has ignored a very essential difference between humans and animals. That is love.”
And according to Jing Xiong, a project manager with a Chinese women’s rights group, the Prof Xie’s idea is highly reflective of the gender bias in the country. She told the BBC that it is “basically a problem stemming from teachings that prioritise men over women.”
“And now the solutions are still very much male-centered. This is extremely ridiculous,” she added. “Prof Xie’s suggestion ignores the wishes and rights of women, and casts women as tools used to satisfy men’s needs for sex, marriage, and reproduction… this suggestion is basically sexual discrimination.”
But amidst all the controversy, the professor has chosen to stick to his theory and back his own ideas. “This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky idea of mine,” he said. “In some remote and poor areas there are cases where brothers jointly marry one wife, and they can live happily and harmoniously.” He added that by sharing the financial responsibility of the wife, men could also save more money and promote greater economic growth.
“If we wave the big stick of morality, keep the one-husband-one-wife social contract, and let 30 million bachelors have no women and no hope, they hate society, then we would have a serious problem,” he explained in a subsequent essay. “It is a reality that we have so many more men than women. Serious social problems, such as rape and assaults, will happen if men cannot find wives. But it doesn’t have to be like that if they are given choices.”
Would you agree with the professor?