Mother Teresa famously said that the greatest threat to peace was abortion. In Asia, high rates of abortion, fuelled by China’s one-child policy and India’s depopulation schemes, are leading to sex ratios so skewed that China and India may become imperialist nations just to quell the domestic problems that such ratios engender. That is the theory postulated by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer in their book, Bare Branches.

Some explanation is necessary.

As Hudson and den Boer note, a long-standing preference for male children has led Chinese and Indian couples to kill their girl children, either through abortion, infanticide or abandonment. Because there are more boys born than girls, the sex ratio is usually 105 males for every 100 females. In China, the ratio is 118 boys under five years of age for every 100 girls. There are now 41 million more men than women in China, most of them between the ages of 15 and 34. Many of them are poor, transient and unemployed, and are leading lives of crime. Numerous studies have shown that when the number of unmarried men is 20 per cent more than females, the young males become troublemakers and destabilize society through crime and other immoral behaviour. Hudson and den Boer say this large demographic cohort could lead to political instability and hypothesize that the government might recruit them to the armed forces to keep them as productive members of society. The worry, the authors say, is that China might engage in more aggressive military actions to sate a growing military; already, China has flexed its muscles against Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The problem is less pronounced in India, although the sex-ratio discrepancy has led India to crack down on ultrasound technologies that are being used to promote sex-selection abortions. India has a large, although not as big, gap in the number of males and females, and it, too, has had differences with regional neighbours (Pakistan) over disputed territory.

Now, this is only a theory and it would require certain decisions to be made by the political leaderships in these nations. But it is possible and, considering the regime in Beijing, quite plausible in the case of Red China.

But if China or India becomes more bellicose because of its population-control schemes and the resultant sex-ratio discrepancy out of its penchant for male children, it will prove Mother Teresa more clearly prescient than perhaps even she imagined.