There is a well known story in China, perhaps apocryphal,
about Marshall Peng De Huai during the Korean War.Marshall Pengwas commander of all Chinese Red Army forces in Korea during the war
with the US.The story goes that a poor
farmer once wrote Marshall Penga letter
asking for the return of his son from the war.The farmer wrote that all of his sons had died either from war, disease,
or famine and that his last remaining son was serving with the Red Army in
Korea and the farmer greatly feared for his son’s life.He implored Marshall Peng to allow his son to
return home to his farm.The story goes
that Marshall Peng had his assistants search all through the Army until they
finally found the boy who was allowed to return home to his father.
A close acquaintance of mine is the 3rd child in
a Chinese family of six children.She is
the 3rd of 5 sisters.The
youngest child is, of course, a boy.Now
while it was not at all unusual in the 1960’s and early 70’s for Chinese
families to have many children ( it was even official Communist policy for a
time), the family would certainly not have grown to 6 children had one of the
earlier children been male, particularly given the very hard times the family
went through at that time.
Both the Marshall Peng story and the family demographics of
my acquaintance illustrate a very interesting concept that a Chinese friend
brought up the other day.My friend said
something along the lines of “The world need not fear the rise of China and
especially the Chinese military.The one-child
policy has made it impossible for China to fight.”This comment really piqued my interest,
particularly as I had written a couple posts over the last few months with
regards to China demographics.The
pursuant conversation was really pretty fascinating I thought.
Basically, my friend’s argument boils down to the fact that
in Chinese culture, both traditional and modern, the family name is
sacrosanct.It is intolerable for a
family to be left without sons to carry on the name and lineage.While there is some semblance of this
sentiment in the West as well, I came to appreciate that it is a far more
important matter to Chinese than it is to Westerners.Thatis why people know the story of Marshall Peng.That is why people know some poems that deal
with this subject.It is apparently a
recurrent tragic theme in Chinese art and culture and is simply
So, according to this theory, given the one-child policy
that has been in place since the mid-1970’s, a good portion of the Red Army’s
rank and file are currently single children.Given the exemptions for some rural people and for ethnic minorities and
others some maybe in 2 child families but in any case the fact remains that a
very large portion of the Army will be the single male child.In the
event of a serious military conflict, this fact would render China unable to
wage a protracted and costly struggle.The tearing of the social fabric that the loss of so many male family
heirs would entail would break Chinese society and public outrage would end the
conflict.Although Nationalism is a
very potent force in China that would propel conflict, the decimation of family
lines would easily trump it.
There is no way of knowing how accurate this theory is of
course but I found it very interesting.I wonder if the Department of Defense has sociologists who have studied
and forecast such things.
"But perhaps some good will come of this. One would hope the Chinese, being forced to jump through a few embarrassing hoops in this little investigation, will never try to sneak underage girls into international competition again.
And that goes for you, too, Russia and Romania. The joke in the international sports community is that the United States and other Western nations are the dumb ones, because they don't doctor birth certificates."