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Chinese Professor's Ideas on Wife Sharing Stir Controversy

FILE - Ling Jueding (C) poses for a photo with his best men before his wedding ceremony at a park in Beijing, June 27, 2015.
FILE - Ling Jueding (C) poses for a photo with his best men before his wedding ceremony at a park in Beijing, June 27, 2015.

An economics professor in China has stirred up controversy online after he suggested that low-income husbands should share their wives with other men who are unable to marry. The professor suggests wife sharing could be a possible solution to China's massive gender imbalance problem, which according to statistics has left an estimated 30 million adult men without wives.

“If we stick to the moral principal of monogamy, we would be condemning 30 million men to a life of misery without wives and children,” Xie Zuoshi, a professor with the School of Economics and International Trade at Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics, told VOA.

Insulting, immoral

Tens of thousands have voiced their strong disapproval online with some arguing that the idea was an insult to women and immoral.

“The professor is treating woman as if they are commodity or assets that a husband can share or rent out. I am surprised at his audacity in saying such things in public,” said Yu Baoyu, a Beijing teacher.

Some users of the social media site Weibo, China's version of Twitter, argued that if the professor thinks the idea is such a viable “economic model,” then perhaps he should take the lead by sharing his wife. Others threatened more extreme actions saying they would withdraw from the school where the professor teaches. Some said they would throw dirt on the professor’s door to vent their anger.

Xie pointed out that men who cannot find wives are mostly from low income groups. He said they can solve the problem of bride shortage as well as cut down the costs of running families by sharing wives.

“The costs would be higher than the gains. There will be transactions and legal costs involved because the practice is illegal. There will be other problems like dealing with the extended families of the two husbands, and inheritance issues,” a Weibo user said.

Another user said there would be greater chances of sexually related diseases coming into families that have two husbands because one would be straying at any given time.

Skewed sex ratio

Families aborting female fetuses to meet their preference for male children for decades has resulted in a skewed sex ratio and subsequent shortage of wives in China.

At present, a large number of brides are imported to China every year from neighboring countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea and Myanmar to meet the huge demand for wives from farmers who are unable to find partners.

Xie thinks importing brides does not solve the problem. “Importing brides from neighboring countries, only transfers the contradiction outwards, but doesn't solve the problem”.

The professor remains unfazed at the anger rising against him. “Those who scolded me are unable to judge the finer moral point I am making about the plight of 30 million bachelors,” he said.

Polyandry vs monogamy

Xie said that his article has been read by his peers in the academic community. Most liberal economists support his views. But scholars in other disciplines have raised objections, he said. He has not yet received any reaction from the government or the Chinese Communist Party.

“The law must be changed to allow polyandry to men and women who want it,” he said. “I do not like polyandry deep in my heart, but monogamy is unethical if you consider the plight of 30 million men.”

Xie said the practice was prevalent in China in the past as many families lived in harmony with two husbands sharing one wife, bearing the extended families' expenditures as well. And while the government may not admit it, polyandry is practiced in some remote corners of the country, he said.