This development is just one of many perverse side-effects of resulting from the Chinese Communist government's one-child policy (image at top right was found at this web address), which has now been in place for three decades. Because of that policy and the country's male-preferring culture, far more pre-born girls than boys have been aborted, leading to a serious male-female imbalance.
Despite the history, Fong somehow managed to get through her 26-paragraph report without mentioning the terms "abortion" or "one-child."
Here are the relevant paragraphs, with euphemistic words in bold after the title:
It's Cold Cash, Not Cold Feet, Motivating Runaway Brides in China
Surplus of Bachelors Spurs New Scam
With no eligible women in his village, Zhou Pin, 27 years old, thought he was lucky to find a pretty bride whom he met and married within a week, following the custom in rural China.
Ten days later, Cai Niucuo vanished, leaving behind her clothes and identity papers. She did not, however, leave behind her bride price: 38,000 yuan, or about $5,500, which Mr. Zhou and his family had scrimped and borrowed to put together.
When Mr. Zhou reported his missing spouse to authorities, he found his situation wasn't unique. In the first two months of this year, Hanzhong town saw a record number of scams designed to extract high bride prices in a region with an oversupply of bachelors.
..... Thanks to its 30-year-old population-planning policy and customary preference for boys, China has one of the largest male-to-female ratios in the world. Using data from the 2005 China census -- the most recent -- a study published in last month's British Journal of Medicine estimates there was a surplus of 32 million males under the age of 20at the time the census was taken. That's roughly the size of Canada's population.
Now some of these men have reached marriageable age, resulting in intense competition for spouses, especially in rural areas. It also appears to have caused a sharp spike in bride prices and betrothal gifts. The higher prices are even found in big cities such as Tianjin.
..... In the 1980s, before the start of China's economic reforms, cai li (bride price) sums were small.
..... In the 1990s, cai li prices rose to several thousand yuan (about $200 to $400 at today's conversion rates), mirroring the country's growing prosperity. But it was only starting in 2002-03 that villagers noticed a sharp spike in cai li prices, which shot up to between 6,000 to 10,000 yuan -- several years' worth of farming income.
Not coincidentally, this was also the period when the first generation of children since the family-planning policy was launched in 1979 started reaching marriageable age.
While there are no nationwide statistics, wedding scams have occurred before, but usually isolated cases. Mr. Tang, Xin'an's Communist Party secretary, says he has never before seen such clusters of cases. Most of the 11 families involved lost an average of 40,000 yuan.
Fong used the correct term ("population-planning policy") in the fourth excerpted paragraph, but in the second-last slipped into the clearly incorrect "family-planning policy." Sadly, it's the government, not families, that is doing the "planning" in China.
Those who are not already aware of China's one-child policy, a human-rights abuse of the highest order, with its tragic three-decade toll of aborted females, will remain unaware of it after reading Fong's report.
Additionally, the sub-headline and content references to the "surplus" of 32 million males is more than a little twisted, given that the situation really involves a shortage of females, because so many more of them have been aborted.
It's also odd that Fong chose a British study covering 20 years without attempting to extrapolate its full implied impact. As of 2003, other studies indicated that the shortage of females in the 24 years since the inception of the one-child policy was already 40 million. Projecting that 40 million over 5-6 more years pushes the number of females lost to government-enforced brutality to well over 45 million.
Given the realities of journalism in China, it may be that even a Wall Street Journal reporter such as Fong had to keep from mentioning "one-child" and "abortion" to stay in good graces with government censors. If so, that's unfortunate, and demonstrates that the Internet censorship apparatus built by US-based high-tech companies for the Chinese government in early 2006 may be having a chilling effect -- perhaps conscious, perhaps not -- on establishment media reports coming out of that country. But if Fong held back from describing why the bride scams are occurring because of not wanting to mention certain supposedly words considered politically-charged words in the West, shame on her.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.