An international survey on domestic violence that interviewed more than 2,000 Chinese found that half of male respondents confessed they have physically or sexually abused their wives or girlfriends.
James Lang, program coordinator of Partners for Prevention, a regional joint program by four United Nations agencies including the UN Population Fund, said "some preliminary findings are shocking".
The survey showed that one in two men reported using physical or sexual violence against an intimate partner, one in four reported having raped a woman and one in 25 admitted to having participated in gang rape.
"Violence is a complex phenomenon. Much of the research has been focused on women, but when we try to come up with solutions to reduce violence, we have to include men. That's the whole motivation behind the study," he said.
Lang made the remarks at a UN symposium on Gender-based Violence and Research on Thursday in Beijing.
The findings are part of a multi-country comparison study that has interviewed more than 10,000 men and 2,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 from six Asia-Pacific countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.
When asked about why the six countries were selected, Lang said the comparison studies try to reflect geographic and cultural diversity, but the willingness of regional governments for data collection work on the sensitive topic is another reason.
He added that the study will be completed and published in July.
The gender-based violence study in China released on Thursday showed that 52 percent of around 800 male respondents have committed an act of domestic violence against their partners.
The survey randomly interviewed about 1,000 men and 1,100 women in a county in South China, according to Wang Xiangxian, an associate professor of sociology from Tianjin Normal University who participated in the research.
The county was not identified to protect the confidentiality of participating respondents, she said, adding that about 90 percent of the interviewees were married or divorced when the interview was conducted in 2011.
The domestic survey revealed that about one-fifth of male respondents said they had forced their partners to have sex, Wang said.
The study in China also showed that women are more at risk of rape from a partner than a non-partner. Among women who had been raped, three in five had been raped by a partner.
Domestic violence has a serious impact on women's physical, mental and reproductive health, it said. For instance, among women who had been physically abused by their partners, 40 percent had been injured, resulting in their taking leave from work or having to stay in bed.
The domestic study also tried to find out what shaped men's violent behavior, and it found that the respondents' attitude toward masculinity can be a deep-rooted reason.
Nearly all men and women polled agreed that women should be equal with men. More than 90 percent of respondents said they were opposed to men perpetrating violence against their partners.
However, the survey also reflected wide tolerance of men's privileges.
Some 72 percent of men and 61 percent of women polled said they believe men should have a bigger voice than women in major decisions.
About 73 percent of men and 55 percent women respondents agreed that men should be tough.
Half of men and one-fifth of women supported the idea that men can use violence to defend their reputation.
More than half of respondents felt that men need sex more than women.
"The widely accepted norms about masculinity are a major driving force for the prevalence of domestic violence against women," said Wang, the sociologist.
"It's pointless to talk about the abstract idea of gender equality if we don't eliminate the prejudice that is accepted by individuals, communities and even the whole society," she said.
UNSAFE SEX PREVALENT
The research on gender-based violence and masculinity in China also discovered that many men are involved in unsafe sexual behavior.
The results, released on Thursday by the United Nations, revealed that 85 percent of male respondents who had multiple sexual partners said they never used condoms during the previous 12 months before the survey.
The results were based on questionnaire interviews of about 1,000 men in a Chinese county.
During the same period, about one-third of male interviewees had sex with more than one partner, the survey found, while more than one-fifth had engaged in sex with sex workers.
Meanwhile, only 14 percent of women surveyed had ever had an HIV test.