The high number of male births has also resulted in a shortage of brides. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences one in five young men will be brideless. It is estimated that one million Chinese men will reach marriageable age every year and be unable to find a wife. Studies indicate that one in ten to one in six men “a number equivalent to the entire population of Canada---will never get married and that unmarried men between 20 and 44 already outnumber their female counterparts 2 to 1.

Some have described the problem as a ticking “bachelor bomb.” Studies indicate that the older a man gets the less likely he is to get married. For Chinese in their thirties the number of single men to single women is nearly 10 to 1. Roseann Lake wrote in, As a result of China’s one-child policy and ensuing female infanticides due to the traditional preference for males, China’s male to female ratio is seriously skewed in favor of the fairer sex. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, by 2020, there will be 30 million more men than women of marriageable age in China. This surplus is unprecedented for a country at peace, and equates to 1 in 5 Chinese men being unable to find a bride. Fears of China expanding its military have been expressed, as have concerns over the increased prostitution, violent crime and bride trafficking that such a disproportionate number of males generally spurs. But certainly, and perhaps more trivially, a surplus of 30 million men should at least improve a girl’s chances of finding someone she might want to marry [Source: Roseann Lake,, March 12, 2012]

Bachelors unable to find marriage partners in China are called “bare branches.” The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences described the issue as the most serious demographic challenge for China. Senior Communist officials have described the problem as a potential cause of crime and social unrest and instability. Men who have no wife and no offspring are called “bare branches.” A computer salesman told Time, “Every girl I meet has already had several marriage offers.” Already "bachelor villages," inhabited primarily by men, are scattered in some of China's poorer regions, particularly in northern Shaanxi province, and in Ningxi and Gaungxi provinces.

Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Family Planning in China ; New England Journal of Medicine article ; One Child policy articles Too Many Boys and Military Agression ; Christian Science Monitor ; Links in this Website: POPULATION IN CHINA ; ONE-CHILD POLICY IN CHINA ; BIRTH CONTROL IN CHINA ; PREFERENCE FOR BOYS

Unmarried Men in China

Ninety percent of all unmarried people between 28 and 49 are male. Many are stigmatized as “bare branches that don’t bear fruit.” According to an article in the Global Times, China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission has found that problems such as forced prostitution, abductions and trafficking of women and childrest are highest in places where the sex ratio is skewed against men.

The shortage of men in China due to sex-selected abortions and other reasons theoretically makes it easier for women to be choosy and requires men to work harder. Chen Kiaomin, director of the Women’s Studies Center at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law told the Times, “In the past people were introduced by relatives, or if they dated a date meant going to a park, Now you have to spend money in restaurants and cafes.”

Nicholas Eberstad wrote in Far Eastern Economic Review, “China is not the only country in the modern world to report unnatural sex ratios at birth; South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and parts of northern India are places where SRBs have risen above 108 in recent years. In all of these settings, the strange imbalances appear to be due to a confluence of three factors: an overpowering preference for sons; low or sub-replacement fertility levels (making the gender outcome of each birth more significant); and the availability of gender determination technologies like ultrasound, which facilitates widespread sex-selective abortion. In China today, however, SRB disparities are more extreme than in any other country on earth---and there is little doubt the imbalances are largely due to the One Child Policy. Professor Zeng of Peking University has suggested that the policy may be responsible for as much as 10 points in China's SRB.” [Source: Nicholas Eberstad, Far Eastern Economic Review, December 2009]

Calculations by Professor Zeng and his colleagues point to the magnitude of the problem. Today, roughly 5 percent of Chinese men in their late 30s have never married. By 2020, that fraction could exceed 15 percent, and may reach 25 percent by 2040. The situation will be more extreme in the countryside, since rural men are more likely to lose out to more affluent and educated urban suitors in the national marriage race. By these same calculations, in 2020 about 20 percent of China's rural men between the ages of 35 to 44 will never have taken a bride, and the proportion rises above 30 percent by 2040. [Ibid]

How will Chinese government and society function in the face of this rising tide of unmarriageable young men, an able-bodied but very likely disaffected cadre drawn disproportionately from the countryside and the urban poor? Speculating about this is almost like imagining the end to a science fiction story---the drama takes us into a universe whose coordinates are far removed from the world we know. Even so, what may be hardest of all to imagine is that at the end of the day, this profound demographic disjuncture would leave China's economy, society and polity altogether unaffected. [Ibid]

Consequences of the Bride Shortage in China

Demographers say the bride shortage might lead to more prostitution, an increase in bride sales, bigamy, forced marriages, and mass migrations of men across China's borders in search of women. A reports in Science magazine warned of an "army of bachelors" that could cause "social perils and all sorts of factors of instability.'

Studies by political scientists Andrea M. Den Boer and Valerie Hudson found that single young men are more likely to commit violence than married ones. Even criminals often give up crime after they get married and settle down. This pattern is consistent with the high crime rates found in Chinese cities that have particularly high male-to-female sex ratios.

Many of the migrant workers in Chinese cities are unmarried men. Those that can’t find work often congregate in groups---often at train and bus stations. Some have formed gangs and been hired as thugs.

Another consequence of the bride shortage is the high number of men with hangdog expressions hanging out in shopping districts in Beijing and other cities, where they hope to catch they eye of young women walking the streets. One single man told the New York Times, "This whole generation of Chinese men who will become monks. And then the women will feel sorry for us."

Even the government is beginning to admit there is a problem. In 2007, China’s State Population and Family Commission said, that “the increasingly difficulties men face finding wives may lead to social instability” and suggested relaxing the one-child policy to boost the number of women.

There are high demands for brides in Hebei, Guizhou and Guangdong, where there are shortages of women. In some bachelor villages the men say they are so poor that no one will marry them. Some of them have tricked women into marrying them by claiming they are richer than they really are. The shortage of women has also created a black market for baby girls and abducted women. The trafficking of girls has become a serious problem. See Abduction of Women and Girls Under Women

Desperate Chinese Bachelor Kidnaps Woman on the Street

William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “Some enterprising singles offer their services as rent-a-boyfriends on China’s equivalent of eBay. But one desperate man this year topped them all. According to the Dalian Evening News, a 32-year-old bachelor in the northeastern province of Liaoning kidnapped a woman off the street and tried for 2 1/2 hours to talk her into becoming his wife. All so he wouldn’t have to face his parents’ excruciating Chinese New Year nagging. It was a creepy plan — including 100-foot-long ropes he brought to tie her up — but the man’s intentions, though peculiar, were chaste, at least in his own thinking. After his arrest, the man told police he had already been agonizing about his failures to find a wife, the Dalian newspaper reported. As his new year’s trip home approached, that anxiety only mushroomed. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, February 17, 2015 |=|]

“About 8 a.m., the man, identified only by his surname Liu, lay in wait by the side of a road. A 24-year-old woman walked by. At first he pretended to ask her for directions, then he dragged her into the woods and attempted to subdue her by sitting on her and tying her feet. The woman managed to get her boyfriend on her cellphone so he could hear what was going on. But the sexual assault they probably both feared turned out not to be what Liu had in mind. By the time police caught the man, he had spent 2 1/2 hours trying in vain to convince the woman of his appeal. “I told her I had just bought an apartment and was in the right condition for marriage, and I hoped that she could be my wife,” he reportedly told the police. |=|

“Reaction on Chinese social media ranged from anger over the assault on a woman to questions about the mental health of the man to commiseration over the unrelenting pressure in China to find a mate. Now that the man is in jail, one commenter on China’s Weibo site joked, at least now “you don’t have to worry about parents nagging you to get married!”

Efforts to Combat the Bride Shortage in China

To combat the bride shortage some have suggested raising the marriage age of men (now 22) and lowering it for women (now 20). Some have also suggested bringing in women from other countries and allowing women to marry two men. Others have suggested that the Chinese government might lure men from the cities with big public work projects likes dams or even expand the military to accommodate them. In the past some men joined the army and some became monks. This took off some of the pressure to find women for all the available men. In some places men are marrying their first cousins and even their sisters through deals made with relatives because that is only way they can find a wife. The practice is so common that some communities are referred to as “incest villages." Some have suggested the problem will continue until China creates a real social safety net to reduce the demand for boys.

A government-sponsored computer-dating service, the Great Wall Information Company, founded in Beijing in 1989, and others often sponsored by provincial and city governments, are swamped by eager men searching for a mate. One of the most popular television shows nationwide is “We Meet Tonight,” a cross between a talent show and the “Dating Game,” hosted by Ms. Yang Guang since its first showing in 1990. [Source: Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo, Fang-fu Ruan, M.D., Ph.D., and M.P. Lau, M.D. Encyclopedia of Sexuality =]

With women in short supply, the men are learning to be realistic and not set their expectations too high. In reality, the women now set the standards, making their choice of a prospective husband based on the intelligence, education, and financial status of many candidates. Another benefit for the women, prompted by the concurrent move towards a free market economy in which scarcity equals value, is that women can no longer be treated as chattel.

Custom has held that a man should marry a woman several years younger and with less education than he has. This left older unmarried women, especially those with more education, almost no hope of finding a husband. With the growing shortage of single women, increasing numbers of men are being forced to consider marrying an older woman. There is a saying being heard more commonly in the countryside that a man who marries a woman three or more years older has found a bar of gold and benefits from her maturity.

New Family Structures in China

Nicholas Eberstad wrote in Far Eastern Economic Review, “The most far-reaching implications of the many demographic changes inadvertently promoted by the One Child Policy, however, may not concern those who cannot find a spouse. Instead, they may entail a revolution in family structure for those who do manage to marry and have children. With the advent of steep sub-replacement fertility rates, single-child families are increasingly common, a trend which may portend the demise of the extended family network and the rise of a peculiar new pattern: only children begotten by only children. In such families, children will have no siblings, uncles, aunts or cousins. Their only blood relatives will be ancestors and descendants.” [Source: Nicholas Eberstad, Far Eastern Economic Review, December 2009]

Research by Professor Guo Zhigang of Peking University and his colleagues suggests how far China has already moved toward this new family type. By their estimates, as of the year 2011, nearly a quarter of China's urban adults between the ages of 25 and 49 will be only children. By 2020, this figure would rise to 42 percent, and by 2030, they would constitute the clear majority at 58 percent. [Ibid]

The emergence of what we might term the “kin-less family” is expected to pose extraordinary challenges. After all, Chinese culture is predicated on the existence of robust and extensive family bonds. Yet the inherent problems in this impending revolution are not solely metaphysical; the atrophy of the traditional Chinese family structure will also complicate the Chinese way of doing business. [Ibid]

In the past, China was what Professor Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins-SAIS has termed a “low-trust” society. It remains one today. To overcome this lack of confidence in laws and official institutions, Chinese entrepreneurs and economic agents have relied upon informal relationships (guanxi) to get things done. These informal networks have served to lower both risk and transaction costs for the parties associated with them. They have, in fact, been an integral and often unacknowledged ingredient in China's economic success over the past three decades. Yet with the advent of the “kin-less family,” many rising, young economic and political actors will no longer be able to count on blood ties in their quest to conduct secure transactions. [Ibid]

Foreign Brides for Sale in China

In the richer coastal areas men look to the poorer west for brides. Brides are also sought in poorer neighboring countries like Myanmar, North Korea, Vietnam and even Russia. Stanford University's Marcus Feldman told Newsweek, "With a free-market economies developing at the same time the number of available bride decreases, you will find women increasingly becoming commodities to be bought and sold." Already large numbers of brides are being smuggled into China from Vietnam and are also making their way in from Russia and Central Asia. Some girls and young women from North Korea, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam have been kidnaped and taken to China and sold as brides.

Cat Barton of AFP wrote: “Vulnerable women in countries close to China -- not only Vietnam but also North Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar -- are being forced into marriages in the land of the one-child policy, experts say. China suffers from one of the worst gender imbalances in the world as families prefer male children. As a result millions of men now cannot find Chinese brides — a key driver of trafficking, according to rights groups. [Source: Cat Barton, AFP, June 25, 2014 +++]

“As trafficking is run by illegal gangs and the communities involved are poor and remote, official data is patchy and likely underestimates the scale of the problem, experts say. But rights workers across Southeast Asia say they are witnessing "systematic" trafficking of women into China for forced marriages. "This problem has largely been swept under the rug by the Chinese authorities," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.” +++

Vietnamese Bride Trade in China

Reporting from Dongxing, China,Ma Guihua of Inter Press Service wrote: "The easing of border restrictions between China and Vietnam has provided a boon to impoverished Chinese farmers: a steady influx of Vietnamese brides. Many of these women are brought to China by human traffickers and sold into marriage, but many are simply looking for a better life. In fact, Chinese authorities are sometimes frustrated when they repatriate Vietnamese women only to have them return to China as soon as their back is turned. "After a brief research in Guangxi I feel very much puzzled myself as to whether this is illegal migration or human trafficking," said Liu Meng, professor at the National Women's University of China. Of the eight brothers in the Deng family in Ban'ai village, some 20 kilometers from this city on the border with Vietnam in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwestern China, four have Vietnamese wives. Deng Wenquan, 32, has a Vietnamese wife from Hanoi, for whom he paid about 400 yuan (US$48) when he took a fancy to her at a villager's home. [Source: Ma Guihua, Inter Press Service, November 14, 2002 <<>>]

"She is nice and good at housework. My parents treat her well. Life is now a little better than the days without her," said Deng, who added that he would like to visit his parents-in-law in Vietnam if he had the money. Deng Wenquan seems surer of his wife than his elder brother Deng Wendong, whose first Vietnamese wife ran off (he now has a second one). "I give her complete freedom," said Wenquan. "She will stay if she wants to live with us." <<>>

"Mai, Wenquan's wife and four years his junior, is a high-school graduate. "If he were an old guy, I wouldn't have married him. I would try to report to the police," she said. Mai did not know she was going to end up married to a Chinese man when she came to Ban'ai, and says she was deceived by an acquaintance of her aunt. Still, she says she has since decided to stay on in China, despite her parents' entreaties to remain in Vietnam after she visited them in Hanoi in 1999. "They reported the trafficker to the Vietnamese people and got him arrested," Mai added. "I want to live with my parents. But I'm not sure that I could marry a good man there. This man is good to me and never beats me, although sometimes we do quarrel," said Mai, showing the photos of her family in Vietnam and China.<<>>

"Thirteen years after Deng Wendong's first Vietnamese wife left him and took their daughter with her, he got another bride from across the border. "She is 27 and was brought here by her father's sister, wife of an overseas Chinese in here," said Deng, 50, who earns a meager living from fishing and occasional rock-chipping. Deng still keeps on his wall a picture of his ex-wife, whom he bought for 300 yuan. "She's very capable [of doing housework and farming]. But I was too poor, so she gave up after living with me for seven years," he mused. Deng says he wanted a Vietnamese wife the second time around for economic reasons. "It costs dearly to get a Chinese girl for a wife," he explained. "People would look down upon you if you don't have money or a wife. Having a Vietnamese bride is cheaper but will nevertheless earn you respect. At least you have a family." <<>>

"Many residents in Dongxing City, which shares 35.77km of boundary line and 42km of coastline with Vietnam, view marriage with women brought across the border, whether by traffickers or other means, as a pragmatic matter. Many do not find this practice in border areas strange, despite the fact that buying wives is illegal and concerns by officials and activists that Vietnamese women are often deceived or forced into these marriages. From the viewpoint of the men here, they get in touch with an intermediary or matchmaker and have to give money to a bride's family in traditional society, so it is not much different paying to get a bride across the border. This trend is facilitated by the easy movement of people and goods along the border areas, since China normalized diplomatic ties with Vietnam in 1989. Border residents from Vietnam come to China easily and freely on day passes, but many overstay. <<>>

A survey in Dongxing in 1999 showed that there 1,269 Vietnamese women who were illegal residents - there could well be more today. More than 80 percent of those women had elementary-school education at the most. "Most of the Vietnamese women entered China illegally for marriage, some were trafficked in," said Wei Xiaoning of the rights section of Guangxi Women's Federation. More than 30 of the 1,500 Ban'ai villagers have bought Vietnamese as wives, village chief Tang Guoqiang says, not counting the women who go ahead and live with Vietnamese women without marriage. "Most of these men are too poor or too old to marry Chinese girls," said Tang. The usual tradition is that a bridegroom has to pay 8,000-10,000 yuan to the bride's parents as a betrothal gift, a fee too big for farmers like Deng Wenquan. When talking about their wives, the men chat about how they keep house and take care of the family. They accept, in matter-of-fact fashion, that some women might decide to leave them one day. Pei Xingfu, who had confessed to kidnapping a Vietnamese woman from the highway in broad daylight, estimates that 30-40 percent of his fellow villagers marry Vietnamese women. "Thanks to the opening and reform, villagers here are better off and therefore can afford to marry Chinese brides," said Pei, also from Ban'ai village. "But I don't understand why they still want to wed Vietnamese women, even those young men at their prime age of 26-30 want them," he added, puzzled. <<>>

"The increase in cross-border marriages has also been seen in the seven other border areas with Vietnam in Guangxi autonomous region. The women's federation in Guangxi says that nearly 99 percent of the 8,002 Vietnamese women living there as of 1999 were married to locals, but none went through legal marriage formalities. Only 0.3 percent of the 9,745 children born from these unions were registered. Police have been trying to crack down on traffickers and to repatriate victims, but this has not been easy. <<>>

"We treat them as victims, take good care of them and teach them legal knowledge. But for those who have lived in China for years and would not want to be repatriated, we could do nothing but treat them as illegal entrants," said Wei Gengwang, deputy chief of Dongxing City Public Security Bureau. "When we send them home, often no sooner had our officers set their feet back, these women had already returned to China," he added. He said few buyers of trafficked women have been punished. The matter is even more complicated if a woman was first trafficked into China - without knowing she was to be married off - but after the marriage decides to stay on or refuses to return to Vietnam. Officials also find it hard to deal with situations where repatriation would mean destroying a union that has been in place for years. <<>>

"Chinese researchers say they have come across Vietnamese wives who say they are contented in China. "The purpose of the Vietnamese women in China is to find husbands or make money. If they are willing to marry someone and money changes hands, the money could be interpreted as fees paid for matchmakers," argued Liu Meng. But unlike traditional matchmaking in China, where the matchmaker knows the brides' background, those in the marriage trade of Vietnamese women know little about those they send to China. But whatever this movement of people is called, the influx of sold Vietnamese brides in Guangxi and farther into inner China raises social issues. Wei Xiaoning of the Guangxi Women's Federation says the marriages, in some cases bigamy, are not in line with China's Marriage Law and not protected by law. Unregistered children from these unions may lose out on health or other services. Meanwhile, a month into his latest marriage, Deng Wendong said his new bride "looks hard-working". But he said: "Marriage is like gambling. I can never tell whether she will stay." <<>>

Vietnamese Brides for Sale in China

Reporting from Lao Cai, a Vietnamese town on the Chinese border, Cat Barton of AFP wrote: “When Kiab turned 16, her brother promised to take her to a party in a tourist town in northern Vietnam. Instead, he sold her to a Chinese family as a bride. The ethnic Hmong teenager spent nearly a month in China until she was able to escape her new husband, seek help from local police and return to Vietnam. "My brother is no longer a human being in my eyes -- he sold his own sister to China," Kiab, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, told AFP at a shelter for trafficking victims in the Vietnamese border town Lao Cai. [Source: Cat Barton, AFP, June 25, 2014 +++]

“The Lao Cai shelter currently houses a dozen girls from various ethnic minority groups. All say they were tricked by relatives, friends or boyfriends and sold to Chinese men as brides. "I had heard a lot about trafficking. But I couldn't imagine it would happen to me," Kiab said. The government says it has launched education programmes in rural areas, near the border, warning young girls not to trust outsiders. +++

“May Na, from the Hmong ethnic minority, was 13 when her uncle took her across the border and forced her to marry a Chinese man. "I could not accept it. They left me at home alone and I climbed over the wall and ran away. I was wandering for more than a day, lost, sleeping in the streets, crying," she said. Eventually, Na ended up at a police station, but because she spoke neither Chinese nor Vietnamese -- only her native Hmong -- it took police a month to figure out what had happened and return her to Vietnam. Now 16, Na -- the eldest of five children -- is learning Vietnamese at the Lao Cai centre. Her uncle has been arrested, she said, but she has chosen not to return to her own family. "I was so sad when I was in China. It was a painful experience for me," she said. +++

Human Trafficking of Vietnamese Women in China

Cat Barton of AFP wrote: “Vietnamese girls are sold for up to $5,000 as brides or to brothels, said Michael Brosowski, founder and CEO of Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, which has rescued 71 trafficked women from China since 2007. "The girls are tricked by people posing as boyfriends, or offering jobs. Those people do this very deliberately, and for nothing other than greed and a lack of human empathy," he added. It is likely that many of the girls end up working in brothels, but due to the stigma of being a sex worker they will usually report they were forced into marriage. [Source: Cat Barton, AFP, June 25, 2014 +++]

“Communist neighbours Vietnam and China share a mountainous, remote border stretching 1,350 kilometers, marked primarily by the Nam Thi river and rife with smuggling of goods of all kinds: fruit, live poultry and women. "It is mostly women who live in isolated and mountainous areas who are being trafficked across the border, because there is no information for us," said 18-year-old Lang, from the Tay ethnic minority, who walked across the frontier illegally and was sold to a Chinese family by a friend. +++

“In northern Vietnam, trafficking has become so acute that communities say they are living in fear. "I worry so much about it, as do all the mothers in the villages, but it has happened to a lot of girls already," said Phan Pa May, a community elder from the Red Dao ethnic minority group. "I have one daughter. She's already married, but I'm worried about my granddaughter. We always ask where she is going, and tell her not to talk on the phone or trust anyone." +++

“Activists working to combat trafficking in Vietnam said police and authorities take the problem "very seriously". The shelter in Lao Cai opened in 2010 and has helped scores of female victims. "There is nothing at home for these girls, not even enough food to eat," said director Nguyen Tuong Long, referring to the dire poverty that is another key driver. +++

“Long, the centre director, says he believes the number of cases is falling. In neighbouring Cambodia, there have been some prosecutions, but An Sam Ath of rights group Licadho said the scourge is still happening, adding: "I am worried the problem will spread." Anti-trafficking groups in Vietnam say it is hard to warn girls of the risks when it is often a family member or friend carrying out the deception. Instead, they say there should be harsher penalties for traffickers -- including, for example, prosecutions at local level to raise awareness in villages of potential punishments to deter people from trying.” +++

Myanmar’s Women Forced to Be Chinese Brides

Some girls and young women are kidnaped and taken to China and sold as brides. David Eimer wrote in The Telegraph, “Aba was just 12-years-old when she left her hometown of Muse in Burma to visit Yunnan Province in China's far southwest. When she crossed the border, she was expecting to spend only a few hours away from home. But it would be three long years before Aba saw her family again. Like thousands of other young girls and women from Burma, she had been duped into coming to China so she could be sold into a forced marriage to one of the growing number of Chinese men who – because there are not enough girl babies born in China – cannot find wives any other way. [Source: David Eimer, The Telegraph, September 4, 2011 <>]

“During her time in China, Aba endured routine beatings, while never being able to communicate with her family or even go outside on her own. Above all, she lived with the knowledge that she was destined to be married to the son of the family that had bought her – as if she was one of the pigs or chickens that ran around their farm. "I was sold for 20,000 Yuan (£1,880)," said Aba. "I was too young to get married when they bought me. It was later that they told me I had to get married to their son. I was lucky in a way. If I had been two or three years older when I was taken, I'd be married to him now." <>

“Most people wouldn't consider it fortunate to be kidnapped as a child and sold into virtual slavery. But Aba is one of the lucky ones. Not only did she escape a forced marriage, but she was rescued and was able to return home. For most of the women from Burma who are sold as unwilling brides in China, there are no happy endings. Instead, they face at best lives of misery and drudgery. At worst, they are driven to suicide. No one knows how many thousands of women are trafficked into China each year to be the wives of the men known as guang gun, or bare branches, the bachelors in rural areas who cannot find brides by conventional means. What is certain is that it is a number increasing all the time.

Min Naing, chief of the Special Anti-Human Trafficking Police Unit in Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy the root cause of the problem was the shortage of women in China, where decades of the one-child policy has meant there are millions more men than women in the country. Poor Burmese women living in border areas are taken in by promises of a good life, and well paid work, on the other side of the border. The official figures only include cases where Burmese authorities have been able to rescue the victim, and may only represent a fraction of the true number of Burmese women trafficked into China. [Source: Lawi Weng, the Irrawaddy, December 24, 2013]

“Thirty years of China's one-child policy has combined with the traditional Chinese preference for male children to create a devastating gender imbalance. It is estimated that 120 boys are now born in China for every 100 girls. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that means by 2020 some 24 million men will be unable to find wives. "The one-child policy has had a considerable impact. Where you have a demographic imbalance, you have a situation where women are in demand. Sometimes, that demand is met through legitimate marriage brokers. Other times it is met by non-legitimate means," said David Feingold, the International Coordinator for HIV/Aids and Trafficking in Unesco's Bangkok office, and the writer and director of the 2003 documentary Trading Women. <>

Human Trafficking Trade Between China and Myanmar

David Eimer wrote in The Telegraph, “Desperate poverty and frequent food shortages in Myanmar make it very easy for the traffickers to trick women into leaving for China and jobs that will never materialise. Instead, the women are sold as wives. Prices for the women range from 6,000 to 40,000 Yuan (£560-£3750), depending on their age and appearance. According to the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (Kwat), a Thai-based NGO that helps trafficked Burmese women, around 25 per cent of the women sold in China are under 18. "The men always want healthy, young women who can produce babies. The women are really just regarded as baby-making machines," said Julia Marip, the head of Kwat's anti-trafficking programme in Yunnan Province. [Source: David Eimer, The Telegraph, September 4, 2011]

Once Aba arrived in Ruili, a scruffy border town in Yunnan that is the main transit point for trafficked women from Burma, she was sold to a family who owned a cotton farm in the northeast of China. Now almost 16 and pretty with a shy smile, Aba is one of three children of a casual labourer and an unemployed mother. Thankfully, Aba escaped being paraded in public in front of potential buyers, which is the fate of many trafficked women. It is a brutal and dehumanising experience. "Sometimes they'll be sold in markets that are held in parks. The traffickers will put the women in nice dresses and make-up. It's very cruel, because the women are happy to be wearing nice clothes, which they've never had before, and then they are sold like vegetables," said Miss Marip. <>

Image Sources: Nolls website,

Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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