* quietly puts on prognostication hat *
I often find myself agreeing with Callie, but not here. China will not seek to resolve its gender gap by war. Nor will it actively seek a war in Taiwan within the next two decades, unless
there's a major move by foreign powers to recognize Taiwan as independent.
The PLA has spent most of the past three decades moving away from reliance on manpower (to whatever extent it ever did so; the infamous "human wave attacks" in the Korean War were hardly standard PLA tactics) and towards being a modern technological army that can compete on equal footing with Western-style forces. That kind of model has certainly built Chinese military power and reach -- but it will not be the kind of model that can be used to siphon off excess male population in war. There is no realistic prospect for China's getting involved in any conflict any time soon that would not a) be against a force the modern PLA would probably kill at a ratio of at least five for one, or b) be against another major power and thus likely to go nuclear and threaten a much larger swathe of the Chinese populace. And the CCP has shown at every step to be anything but inclined toward reckless military conflict; indeed its present leadership far outstrips the American political class for caution and long-range planning.
The real threat Taiwan poses from a CCP standpoint is that if its independence is widely recognized, this could embolden other separatist movements and threaten Chinese unity. That's a threat they take seriously enough that they might well consider going to war if, say, an American administration took that step. But they would have no illusions about winning such a war on the battlefied, and nobody very influential on either side seems to be eager for it. There are far too many American entrepeneurs busy making fortunes in China, and Chinese entrepeneurs for their part building fortunes off the American market, for anyone to want to upset the apple-cart. (An interesting indicator here is pop culture: ever notice how China has singularly failed to materialize in American action entertainment as the Next Big Enemy? How American remakes of 'Red Dawn' and similarly chest-thumping scenarios have invariably had to switch the villains from China to North Korea (thus making themselves ridiculous)? That's not random; the bulk of action entertainment closely follows the current elite propaganda line. And periodic noise-making about "being tough on China" aside, it's plain that neither of the elites of America or China are looking to use the other as a great Satan.)
The gender gap does
pose a social problem for China, but not nearly as apocalyptic a problem as the overpopulation that the one-child law was created to address. There are other ways of dealing with it than war (encouraging emigration of bachelors for non-aggressive purposes, or immigration of women for same, and so on) and its unrealistic to expect that the CCP will not explore them first.
I find that in Western imagination, ever since the days of the student movement and Tiananmen Square, there seems to be an endless procession of things that are supposed to be coming just around the corner, any day now, to throw China into chaos (labour unrest, environmental crisis, currency crisis, resource shortages, political revolution, you name it). Somehow it never seems to happen, usually because the supposed threat is being vastly over-hyped in the West. It's as if, watching China continue to rise, and rise, and rise, there's a queasy sense in much of the rest of the world that this somehow should not be possible -- it doesn't track with neoliberal economists' ideas of what was supposed to happen in China, for one thing -- that it must all be a fluke and that China will reset soon and go back to being a basket-case. Niall Ferguson has called this phenomenon "wishful non-thinking." I'm not entirely sure whether the hyping of the gender gap is an instance of it, but it's starting to feel similar to me.