As a crime that threatens public safety and social stability, child trafficking has attracted widespread attention from all sectors of society. Few studies have been conducted on child trafficking, especially in the literature review conducted from the perspective of comparison between China and abroad, which makes it difficult to fully reveal the system and development of current research. This study clarifies the thematic structure and development of child trafficking in China and abroad, based on the "Web of ScienceTM Core Collection" and CNKI data sources, using CiteSpace software. Specifically, the study comparatively examines the progress of child trafficking studies in China and abroad since 2000 and analyzes future development trends from the time of publication, regional and subject distribution, research institutions, and keyword co-occurrence. We hope that this work provides a relatively complete and objective understanding for innovative future research. The results indicate that: (1) the research on child trafficking started earlier abroad, and the theoretical system and research methods are relatively mature. From 2000 to 2020, a total of 215 articles were published in Web of Science, showing two stages of fluctuating and rapid growth, and USA ranks first worldwide. There are 46 core articles published in CNKI, showing two stages of initial exploration and fluctuating growth overall, with a relatively slow growth rate in China. More studies are distributed in the fields of social studies, psychology, pediatrics, family studies and criminology in abroad, while domestic studies are mainly distributed in the field of law, criminology and sociology. In recent years, the research in the field of geography has risen rapidly, and there is ample room for development. (2) Due to the differences in regional environment and national conditions, international child trafficking is part of a study on human trafficking, which is mainly for the purpose of exploitation, including direct and indirect exploitation, involving various topics such as commercial sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, trafficking human organs, child marriage trafficking, and other types of trafficking. Commercial trafficking and sexual exploitation are the main research hotspots of child trafficking. Child trafficking in China is usually discussed in combination with the trafficking of women, focusing on the provincial trafficking for the purpose of adoption, and "family control" and "lured adoption" are common ways of committing crimes. The legal policy and social reasons surrounding child trafficking are hot topics of concern. (3) With the increase in interdisciplinary integration, child trafficking involves suicide risk and well-being, rehabilitation and return to society, child protection and trafficking prevention and control measures, which have become popular topics abroad. The theme of domestic child trafficking has extended from focusing on legal policies and social reasons to spatial-temporal patterns, influencing factors, resettlement, and social integration. In the future, how to integrate the relevant parties involved in child trafficking (criminals, victims or guardians, and other people) with the spatio-temporal environment (social environment, built environment, and surrounding people flow environment), and explore the evolution of geographical factors and the spatio-temporal activity trajectory of child trafficking from the perspective of criminal geography? It is important to deeply analyze the occurrence mechanism of child trafficking from the interactive perspective of time, space, and humans. How to make full use of the modern technological means to track and combat child trafficking in practice, to contribute to the prevention and management of this issue at home and abroad, constitutes a key question.