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China Importing the Only Thing it Can't Manufacture

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According to the US-China Business Council, China's top imports in 2010 were as follows:

1. Electrical machinery and equipment

2. Mineral fuel and oil

3. Power generation equipment

4. Ores, slag and ash

5. Optics and medical equipment

6. Plastics and articles thereof

7. Inorganic and organic chemicals

8. Vehicles, excluding rail

9. Copper and articles thereof

10. Iron and steel

However, someone may soon have to revise this list, because China is importing quite a bit of something else they can't manufacture themselves:


As Saibal Dasgupta of the Times of India writes, there are 23 million more boys between the ages "of zero and 19 at this time in China" than there are girls. This, say researchers at the China Academy of Social Science, will result in "tens of thousands of young Chinese men" struggling to find wives.

Dasgupta explains:

An important reason for lower female population is the abortion of girl child after determining the sex of the fetuses of the unborn baby. Though illegal, use of type-B ultrasonic facilities for sex determination is widely practiced in China.

The gender imbalance has been consistently worsening over the past two decades despite official assurances that females enjoy equal rights as males. The male population at the time of the last census was 13% more than the female strength of China.

A census in 1982 showed the number of male births for every 100 females was 108.47; in 1990, it rose to 111; in 2000, it was 119 and in 2005, it jumped to 120.49. The male population at that point was 13 percent higher than that of females.

This has not only led to "bride imports" (Dasgupta's term) from countries like Vietnam, Laos and North Korea, it has also prompted young women from poor rural areas to seek more affluent lives by searching for husbands in wealthier provinces.

Tian Xueyuan, deputy director of the China Population Association, worries the situation will lead to black market "wife selling" and "threaten social stability."

Tian's concern may come a bit late, as this 2004 story from the Guardian details one of the aforementioned "sales":

Kim Jeong-oh left her home in North Korea to start a new life across the Yalu river. Instead of finding a job, however, the 35-year-old was sold as a wife for £390.


But when Ms Kim arrived in the border town of Hyesan, the North Korean guide arranged to sell her to a wife-trader. "He promised to find me a factory job in China where I could earn 2,000RMB (£160) per month," she said. "I had no idea he was planning to sell me."

She and three other women waded across the shallow river and were met by a Chinese broker who paid 300RMB for each of them. They spent the next four days in a car parked in the mountains while their "owner" drove from village to village looking for buyers.

"I was sold to the first bidder for 5,000RMB," Ms Kim, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said. "I don't know what happened to the other girls."

Of course, this being China, someone's already figured out a way to maximize the "synergies" between their market and the market for wives.

As Asia business consultant Dror Poleg discovered in 2009:

Jin Tai Cheng, a Beijing company, is offering a creative solution for prospective buyers at its "Ecological Bay" Villa project. The company encourages future homeowners to date its sales girls and promises a wedding present of RMB 60,000 to any couple that ends up getting married. The official story is that the company lured the sales ladies with a commitment to pay 8% in sales commissions as well as the opportunity to strike gold by securing a wealthy husband.

But do they help with the mortgage payments?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.