Resettlement of Women and State Building in Western China

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Conference Title

Historical Society for Twentieth Century China conference



Conference Dates

June 26-28, 2006

Date of Presentation



Asia's "missing girls" have been the subject of a heated and ongoing debate in the press and academy over gender inequality in China and India. The problem is a gross violation of the human rights of Chinese girls that must be addressed at its root in Chinese culture. The implications of the "marriage squeeze" and other dimensions of the female shortage will be faced by the people and government of China for many years to come.

But the current female shortage is not a new problem. Women were in shortage during the Qing dynasty for the same reasons they are today. Of greater interest for this paper was the female shortage in parts of western China in the 1950s and 1960s, a deficit that was caused by transfers of mostly Han Chinese males. Qinghai province was on the receiving end of largely male population transfers in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, in-migration continued at lower levels but the gender balance of in-and out-migration shifted. Official population figures show that the population of Han women grew faster than the Han male population in the 1960s and 1970s despite ongoing male resettlement and sex ratios at birth that favored males. The faster rate of growth for Han women is therefore most likely the result of population transfers to Qinghai, rather than births or deaths. One can also see evidence of population transfers of women in the 1960s and 1970s In two middle-aged cohorts of Qinghai’s urban population in 2000 that are dominated by females. Specifically, Qinghai’s municipalities (Xining, Golmud and Delingha) show cohorts missing 10,000-12,000 middle-aged men who are unlikely to have died or been killed. I suspect that this bulge in the numbers of women in Xining has been produced by population transfers and that it reflects a state policy to adjust the imbalanced gender ratios it had created in the 1950s.

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