Migration, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking
The Voice of Chinese Women
Migration, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking examines the nature, magnitude, and gravity of prostitution and sex trafficking—and the relationship between them—in Shenzhen, China. By researching the factors that drive Chinese women to migrate to cities, Min Liu hopes to shed light on the underlying reasons for their entry into the sex industry and the Chinese government’s lackadaisical response.
The author begins by examining the historical roots of prostitution in China, providing the theoretical framework and historical background for the topic. She then explores the methodology of the study conducted—in-depth interviews, statistics, government documents, and personal observation. Collected data examines the lives of individual women before and after they became involved in prostitution. And finally, Liu discusses prostitution laws in China and the motivations for human trafficking from the perspective of the trafficker and the victim.
Prostitution is a global issue. The Shenzhen, China example, one of many in an expanding, market-driven economy encased in a communist political system, is explored with candor and understanding. It is the author’s hope that increased awareness will lead to legislation that will stop this kind of exploitation.
"Make[s] an important contribution to the criminal justice literature devoted to sex offenses, offenders, and victimization. . . . should be of interest to a broad audience and would work well as an additional text for college and university courses on deviancy, feminism, or transnational crime."
—Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books
“Migration, Prostitution and Human Trafficking: The Voice of Chinese Women is a top pick for any college-level collection strong in Chinese issues and culture, and provides an analysis of the magnitude of sex trafficking in modern China and its lasting impact on Chinese culture. From its historical roots to how data was collected to support this study and motivations for human trafficking on all sides, this follows the progression of a social condition that has permeated all aspect of Chinese culture and identity. With its focus on exactly how Chinese women in Shenzhen have become embroiled in trafficking, it provides many eye-opening specifics and insights and offers conclusions that will affect consideration of the global issues involved.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Migration, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking: The Voice of Chinese Women is an account of prostitution in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone adjacent to Hong Kong. Author Min Liu examines the upsurge of prostitution in the context of China’s post-1978 economic reform . . . Migration, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking adds to the corpus of works that explore the cultural, historical, and geographic specificity of commercial sex work and the women who engage in it . . . Some antitrafficking activists have been wont to conflate migration and human smuggling and to brand all prostitution as victimhood. Min Liu alerts us to the folly of such conflations . . . She further calls for critical scrutiny of the meanings of such terms as exploitation, coercion, forced work, agency, and choice. Some antitrafficking activists have gone further to connect prostitution to childhood experiences of sexual trauma and maltreatment, a link that would effectively render prostitution a symptom of psychopathology. Migration, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking serves to rebut such broad-brush claims by illustrating the powerful societal, cultural, economic, and political forces that organize commercial sex work.”
—Jeanne Marecek, Contemporary Psychology, APA Review of Books
“In Migration, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking, Min Liu shows that, as is often the case with social problems, the picture is much more nuanced and multi-faceted than the zealots on either side of the argument would have us believe. As Liu describes, only six of the forty Chinese prostitutes she interviewed in Shenzhen, China could actually be classified as trafficking victims. But, and this is an important qualification, she recognizes that ‘victimization’ is not a clear, black and white issue. Women in dire straits may indeed exercise ‘choice’ in becoming a prostitute, but it is a choice very much bounded by their socio-economic and cultural circumstances. The book presents the fascinating stories of these women—describing in their own words, how and why they ended up in prostitution.”
—Jim Finckenauer, Ph.D., Professor II (Distinguished), Rutgers University
“The author brings to this very contentious and deeply emotional topic an impressive objectivity that is so often lacking in research on prostitution, not to mention human trafficking. Liu follows the lives of a small group of young sex workers in Shenzen China, and allows them to speak for themselves. The result is a book that reveals the paths that these young women and girls follow, paths that reflect universal human characteristics so common in those who seek a better life in challenging times: the interplay of ambition, opportunism, materialism, choice, temptation, deception, and coercion.
Though written in a modest and unassuming style, the ideas embedded in this book are dramatic. Those who are trafficked, those who enter the sex trade make choices along the way. They take advantage of opportunities (real or imagined) that migration to the urban environment promises. Some of the women are happy with their lives and accomplishments. Others are not. And their stories are told against a backdrop of modern China where law enforcement against prostitution—perhaps reflecting a hypocrisy common in many countries—is spasmodic and prone to corruption.
It is difficult after reading this book to cling to the idea that all these women are ‘victims’—the received view of most research and policy on this topic today. This is a groundbreaking, paradigm-shattering work, a courageous and compassionate book.”
—Graeme R. Newman, Distinguished Teaching Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany
“This is a truly welcome addition to the literature with multiple original insights and valuable contributions. This book focuses on China, a country of origin transfer and destination of victims of human trafficking. The book places the problem of human trafficking in a broader socio-economic, political and legal context. Liu’s discussion of causes also with reference to globalizing forces and feminist discourses makes the text more comprehensive and amenable to stimulating and exciting assignments or class debates for those who decide to adopt it for courses in criminology, history, Asian studies, anthropology, political economy, migration, governance and development or law and society.”
—Nikos Passas, Professor, Northeastern University, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice