Tropical Geography ›› 2022, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (9): 1403-1418.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003553

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Geographical Studies on Human Trafficking in China: Progress Review and Governance Implications

Gang Li1,2(), Yue Yu1,2, Junjun Zhou1,2, An'nan Jin1,2   

  1. 1.College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Environmental Carrying Capacity, Xi'an 710127, China
    2.Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Earth Surface System and, Environmental Carrying Capacity, Xi'an 710127, China
  • Received:2022-08-15 Revised:2022-09-05 Online:2022-09-05 Published:2022-10-07


The crime of human trafficking is an abnormal (involuntary, passive) phenomenon of population migration (disappearance, persecution); it has attracted great attention from the public and academic community because of its resultant social harm and far-reaching impacts on individuals and families. Constrained by the concealment, dispersion, variability, and complexity of the crime of human trafficking in China, the perspectives of earlier research topics were relatively clustered and limited. During the last 10 years, geographers have gradually achieved certain new understandings and progress through continuous exploration. From the perspective of the related sub-disciplines of geography, this study focuses on the main progress, existing issues, future trends, and crime governance paths to review studies on the crime of human trafficking in China. The results indicate the following: (1) Regarding the interdisciplinary situation: The crime of human trafficking is a social pain point of common concern among multiple disciplines. Geography has the advantage of being a latecomer and its integration with other disciplines will help understand the problem in depth and solve it systematically. Geographers will have a broad stage for future research in the field of human trafficking crimes. (2) Regarding the research objects: The earlier studies on the crime of child trafficking in China in the international context were actually subject studies of human trafficking in the Chinese criminal law context. The crime of human trafficking in China is unique compared to other countries and other types of crimes. (3) Regarding the research data: In the past, the data sources mainly comprised non-governmental organizations and individuals. The current data sources show the co-occurrence of non-governmental and official sources and the trend of the integration of offline and online availability. The integration and utilization of multi-source data will be the main path to future studies. (4) Regarding field investigation: In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact and the upgrading of related family tracing means, field investigation has opened up new ways, and online investigations (online interviews, participatory observation in live broadcasting rooms, etc.) have become complementary or alternative channels of traditional field investigations and surveys. (5) Regarding patterns and trends: Based on the update and verification of available data, it is found that the stability of the spatiotemporal pattern of trafficking crimes and the dependence on the main routes in China, and cross-border and inter-provincial border areas, are worthy of attention. Future research trend will shift from being independent to comprehensive—from a quantitative study to a qualitative or mixed study; from case numbers to individuals, families, and their social networks; from the source area to the bridging of source, flow, and sink areas; and from a type of human trafficking to multi-type comparisons of missing persons. (6) Regarding measures and suggestions: Combined with the existing research knowledge and current crime trends, this study presents overall strategies and specific paths for dealing with the crime of human trafficking and assisting the abducted and their relatives.

Key words: human trafficking, crime geography, research progress, governance measures, China

CLC Number: 

  • C922