Leftover in China

The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower

Editor’s note: After we originally posted this video interview about Leftover in China, questions were brought to our attention about the book. We took the video down while we reviewed these concerns, and we determined that the interview is suitable to run on our book video platform.

W. W. Norton & Company: Factory Girls meets The Vagina Monologues in this fascinating narrative on China’s single women—and why they could be the source of its economic future.

Forty years ago, China enacted the one-child policy, only recently relaxed. Among many other unintended consequences, it resulted in both an enormous gender imbalance—with predictions of over 20 million more men than women of marriage age by 2020—and China’s first generations of only-daughters. Given the resources normally reserved for boys, these girls were pushed to study, excel in college, and succeed in careers, as if they were sons.

Now living in an economic powerhouse, enough of these women have decided to postpone marriage, or not marry at all, spawning a label: “leftovers.” Unprecedentedly well-educated and goal-oriented, they struggle to find partners in a society where gender roles have not evolved as vigorously as society itself, and where new professional opportunities have made women less willing to compromise their careers or concede to marriage for the sake of being wed. Further complicating their search for a mate, the vast majority of China’s single men reside in and are tied to the rural areas where they were raised. This makes them geographically, economically, and educationally incompatible with city-dwelling “leftovers,” who also face difficulty in partnering with urban men, given urban men’s general preference for more dutiful, domesticated wives.

Part critique of China’s paternalistic ideals, part playful portrait of the romantic travails of China’s trailblazing women and their well-meaning parents who are anxious to see their daughters snuggled into traditional wedlock, Leftover in China focuses on the lives of four individual women against a backdrop of colorful anecdotes, hundreds of interviews, and rigorous historical and demographic research to show how these “leftovers” are the linchpin to China’s future.

Book Review: 

Kirkus (November 14, 2017)

Publishers Weekly (December 11, 2017)

The New York Times, (February 13, 2018)

South China Morning Post, (March 3, 2018)

Inside Higher Ed (February 21, 2018)

Los Angeles Review of Books, (March 7, 2018)

Related Reading:

China’s ‘Leftover’ Women,” Leta Hong Fincher, Ms., November 22, 2011

All the Shengnu Ladies,” Roseann Lake, Salon, March 11, 2012

Bachelor Padding: How Lonely Single Men Created China’s Dangerous Real Estate Bubble,” Roseann Lake, Foreign Policy, September 28, 2012

China’s Leftover Women,” Leta Hong Fincher, The New York Times, October 11, 2012

From Half the Sky to Leftovers: A Q + A with Leta Hong Fincher,” Mei Fong and Leta Hong Fincher, ChinaFile, April 23, 2014

Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Video Interview), Leta Hong Fincher, ChinaFile, July 31, 2014

‘Leftover’ and Proud,” The Economist, August 2, 2014

Why Is It so Hard for Unmarried Women in China to Go See a Gynecologist?,” Roseann Lake, Jezebel, September 10, 2015

Rise of the Leftovers,” Roseann Lake, TEDxSuzhouWomen, September 17, 2015

‘Still Not Married?’ A Graphic Guide to Surviving Chinese New Year,” Roseann Lake, ChinaFile, February 20, 2015

China’s ‘Leftover Women’: What it’s Really Like Being Unmarried at 30,” Yuan Ren, The Telegraph, April 11, 2016