by Zhong Wei (Lianhe Zaobao -- Singapore October 2, 2000)
There isn't very much reliable data about China's sex trade. For lack of good data, let's take a look at data released on anti vice campaigns since 1999. Take Beijing, for example. Two anti vice campaigns in Beijing during 1999 involved enforcement actions at 6000 hair salons, baths, and other establishments were vice is easily concealed. This July Beijing police arrested 4101 gamblers, and 1866 establishments in violation of vice laws. Each large sex establishment can house 100 prostitutes while a hair salon might have ten prostitutes. One can estimate from this that Beijing has at least 200,000 - 300,000 prostitutes.
Another example is Fuzhou. During a five days in July, 13,000 sexual companions were arrested and 5604 establishments were found in violation. Fuzhou seems to be in a worse situation than Beijing, so perhaps there are 100,000 prostitutes in Fuzhou.
Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as China's first windows to open to the Western world got an early start so the proliferation of prostitution there is even more astonishing. There, prostitution is closely tied to organized crime, corrupt local officials, and underground vice marketing organizations that use hotels, places of entertainment and other semi-public locaux to provide sexual services.
Jiangsu Province: in Hangzhou City, at just one establishment, the Xunmeng Gewuting [Searching for Dreams Dance Hall] three or four hundred prostitutes and their clients congregate. In that region there is a big demand for prostitutes so that in Wuning City a "prostitute wholesaling center" appeared. In Yining City alone, there are 25 of these establishments and 40 underground exchanges. There prostitutes wait for a boss from a sexual services center to come and take them away. Business is good.
In Wuhan, the call girl service has even developed to the point of needing a work permit. In Guangzhou to the city of Dongwan, there are many apartments where merchants from Hong Kong and Taiwan live -- the apartments rent girls to them. In Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, there are nearly 5000 registered dance halls and after investigation another 3000 turned up. Taiyuan may well be the world's prostitution capital -- just counting the "girls" working at the over twenty large "dance hall cities" and 60 sauna establishments, there are nearly 100,000 prostitutes. During the 1997 floods, many top officials were paying attention to the famous courtesan Chen Li...
In Jiangsu Province, Danyang district, prostitutes are known for stopping diners and trucks on the roads to offer their services. In Kunming and other places, prostitution "services" have developed to the point of vehicles with beds.
Prostitutes are people living on the edge, struggling for existence. If we estimate that 20 million prostitutes earn 25,000 RMB annually, that comes to 500 billion RMB or is 6 percent of the PRC GDP. More over, China's "new left" economist Yang Fan estimates that half of the prostitutes income goes to consumption, so that represents consumption of 250 Billion RMB. Prostitutes need quite a lot of equipment: beepers, cell phones, cabs, apartments or rooms in homes, expensive clothes and fine cosmetics and even bodyguards, pharmaceuticals.. so the sex industry may well move the economy along with an annual level of consumption of 1 trillion RMB.
The "sex industry" is certainly a significant part of
the Chinese economy. When we consider that the Chinese GDP in 1998 and
1999 was 7.8 trillion RMB and 8.3 trillion RMB, the contribution of the
"sex industry" to the GDP comes in at about 12.1 - 12.8 percent. Thus it
is not moonshine to talk about the economic importance of the "sex industry".
The economist Yang Fan even estimates that with the implementation of the
"Regulations on the Management of Places of Entertainment" issued by the
State Council during the latter half of 1999, the Chinese GDP dropped by
How did China's sex industry get to be so big? Over the past two decades, economic changes have been too big and have come to fast. Morals have been changing and the population pressure is more and more apparent. When everybody was poor, being rich was seen as evil. The words "let a few get rich first" was a clever formula, but it didn't say just how this was to be done. Or which people in which areas in which classes could get rich first. As the old house collapses, some time is needed for the construction of new values and the rule of law. The combination of the traditional worship of power with the new worship of money created a disaster. Little could be done about it. Some relied on power to get money. Some relied on the protection of elders to get rich. Some got rich smuggling drugs. From a situation where everyone lived in abject poverty to a situation where some people ate fish and traveled around in cars. People lost their moral bearings. The old attitude "People laugh at poor people but don't laugh at prostitutes" re-emerged. Many traditional Chinese values were lost during the rapid development of the economy. The reconstruction of a new morality still lies quite far often at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
The sanbeinuu [prostitutes in dance halls, bars
etc.] break down into three types:
-- From the countryside, very young with little education. They have no skills and have a hard time getting a decent job in the city so it is very easy for them to fall into that line of work. The cruelest fact is that after selling all of their self-respect they often kill them selves in their little hole in the underground spaces of the city.
-- The second type is the urban girl with a modicum of education who falls into this life because she want fancy things
-- The third type is the highly educated, pretty urban girl who goes into it voluntarily to have a golden nest.
As more and more rural people leave the limited lands in the countryside to move into the city, likewise are more and more industrial workers finding themselves jobless as the result of advancing technology. There must be over a hundred million unemployed women. Where can they go?
Over the next fifty years, providing education and work for 1.3 billion people will be the most important task of the Chinese government. It is a nearly impossible task that must somehow be accomplished.
[Chinese text below in GB code]