China: Too Many Men

<b>Lesley Stahl</b> Reports On The Country's Unique Population Problem

"In world history, there has never been a bride shortage as large as is about to hit China," says political scientist Valerie Hudson of Brigham Young University, who co-authored a book on Asia's male surplus.

She and other scholars have compiled statistics going back centuries that show too many unmarried males in a society spells trouble.

"When there are more men than women, social instability and crime increases in society," Hudson explained. "Psychologists have talked about what they call the pacifying effect of marriage. Young men who have been pretty extreme criminals — upon marriage — and when the children begin to come, their criminal careers more or less end."

Asked if she is predicting a crime wave, Hudson said, "Yes. It's already happening."

And Zhao Baige admits that China has already begun to see social problems that stem directly from this gender imbalance.

In the early years of the one-child policy, the kidnapping of baby boys — those much desired sons — was a problem; lately, says minister Zhao, there has been a surge in trafficking of baby girls.

Many of the infant and young girls are being sold to become wives.

"The Chinese government confiscated a large plastic bag full of 28 girl babies, ranging in age from 2 to 5 months," said Hudson.

The baby girls, whose photos were posted on the Internet, were found stuffed together in plastic bags lashed onto the roof rack of a cross-country bus. Family members had sold them to traffickers for as little as $8 apiece.

"They were being sold to families in the countryside, who were worried about not finding wives for their sons," said Hudson. "So, they would buy them as infants and raise them in the family to become the bride of their son."

Older girls are also being kidnapped. Manyay and Mahray were taken to a faraway province and forced into marriage.

"The man was about 30 years old and a bit fat. He was a farmer and I didn't love him," one of the girls told Stahl.

The girls and thousands of other children were rescued by Chinese police, but tens of thousands are still missing. A couple from Yunnan Province were brave to talk to 60 Minutes, despite warnings by local police not to.

The Lu's daughter, Lei San-Lee, was 8 when she disappeared three years ago, apparently abducted while outside playing.

"Later, all her friends came back home, but she did not. And we went to her friends and asked why and they said they saw her leave with an older man," her father recalled.

Lei San-Lee was the couple's only child.

Some traffickers are caught, like 10 convicted in February for selling babies to orphanages where foreigners come to adopt them. Still, the government is worried.

"This is the very big risk, very big risk," said Zhao.

"And political instability? Do people talk about that as a risk?" Stahl asked.

"Yes. Yes," she replied.