Young Vietnamese women are being trafficked into China to be sold as brides to Chinese men. These innocents are being made to pay for the past failings of Chinese governmental policy.
by Oliver Ward
The recent interception of three Vietnamese women at the Chinese border has exposed a dark and worrying after-effect of China’s one child policy. Brokers operating near the Vietnamese-Chinese border traffic young Vietnamese women into China. These young Vietnamese women are then sold as brides to lonely Chinese men.
Vietnamese authorities rescued three women at the Mong Cai border crossing in May. Brokers were attempting to send them into China as brides to Chinese men. They were to be sold for between US$1,500-US$2,000 each. These women were between 18 to 20 year old.
The women are lured into China under false pretences
In February, 32 would-be brides were rescued and 75 suspects were arrested in a sting operation. The ring lured women into China with the promise of work. Brokers held them in remote mountain towns before selling them to men in central and eastern China. There have been some cases of brokers drugging and abducting women in Vietnam. The women wake up in China and are sold into marriage.
Chinese police rescued 1,281 trafficked women in 2012. The women are sold to men in rural areas who cannot find a bride due to the extreme gender imbalance. One woman describes how “two men caught me and beat me with a steel pipe” when she tried to escape.
Because of the large sums of money changing hands, some Vietnamese families have taken matters into their own hands by selling their young women to traffickers. Kiab, who is just 16, told of how her brother sold her to a Chinese family as a bride. He took her to a northern town under the guise of going to a party. Instead, he handed her over to human traffickers.
May Na was even younger. She was just 13 when her uncle sold her to 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.
High dowries for Chinese brides make a foreign bride an attractive alternative
“We only marry a foreign wife when we have no other choice,” said Li Guichen, a Chinese man in his forties who bought a Vietnamese bride. It is normal for Chinese brides to ask for betrothal gifts. These can cost as much as Rmb300,000 (US$44,150). Then Chinese men have to pay for a home and a car for their bride. The costs add up.
Marrying a local woman is expensive. However, a Vietnamese bride can be purchased for as little as US$1,500.
This is the start of the dangerous fallout of China’s One Child policy
The price of a dowry for a bride in China in 1999 was just RMB11,000 (US$1,600). Just ten years later prices were three times this amount, RMB33,000 (US$4,800). Since 2009 the cost of marrying a Chinese bride has skyrocketed.
Years of a One Child policy have ushered in an era of severe gender imbalance. In the 90s, when there was no shortage of women. Dowries were low back then. As the gender imbalance has increased, so too has the cost of marrying a Chinese woman. More men like Li are opting to pay for a cheaper Vietnamese bride. The brokers offer a guarantee of a new bride if the first one runs away within five years.
China’s One Child policy has made Chinese men the most single in the world
China’s patrilineal culture has always meant that boys are responsible for the task of continuing the family name and caring for aging and ill parents. Under the One Child policy, many parents chose to undertake sex selective abortions if their unborn child was expected to be a girl. They feared a daughter would marry into another family and be unable to look after them in their old age.
As a result, many girls were simply not born. In the countryside, families are much poorer. The trend was amplified there. No family wanted their one child to be born female. In one rural town, the birth rate was 100 girls for 150 boys. The global average 103 girls to 106 boys.
Chinese women want to marry into the best possible situation. They are easily able to find rich men in the cities because the number of men outweighs the number of women.
This has left swathing numbers of poor rural men without the opportunity of finding a wife. “Bachelor villages” have emerged. These are rural towns full of single men, doomed to a single life. Trafficked Vietnamese brides have become an attractive prospect in these rural areas.
The problem will only get worse, as the full effects of the One Child policy are felt
By 2020, there will be as many as 35 million more men of marrying age than women. By 2030 more than 25% of Chinese men in their late 30s will still be unmarried. Most of these men will live in poor, rural communities.
Unfortunately, the plight of the Vietnamese mail order brides could become pale in comparison to other challenges posed by the gender imbalance. Studies are already showing an increase violent crime. Sociologists believe this could be because of the gender imbalance. Ultimately it could lead to national instability.
The Chinese government have now lifted the One Child policy. It might be too little, too late. The gender gap is already here. Far fewer parents than expected have applied for a permit to have a second child. The patrilineal culture runs deep. Persuading prospective Chinese parents that their future will be secure in their daughter’s hands is not an easy undertaking.
The lifting of the One Child policy is a step in the right direction, but it feels like a plaster for a bullet wound. Until the gender imbalance is addressed, human traffickers will fill the bride deficit. The problem looks set to get worse before it gets better. The lives of more young Vietnamese women will be destroyed, their futures ruined – all these because of the past failings of the Chinese government.