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Child-trafficking networks of illegal adoption in China


Child trafficking leads to family tragedies and social problems, and is a serious concern for social sustainability globally, particularly in China where tens of thousands of children are trafficked every year. Here, we used a new database and a set of network indicators to identify and target key cities and trafficking paths to help effectively break up child-trafficking networks in China. Special emphasis was placed on city-level networks. We observed that the majority of key cities were provincial capitals or located in Fujian province. Although the key paths were often between capitals and non-capitals, the top-ranked paths only controlled a small share of trafficking. Information dissemination and proactive crime fighting operations could reach over 80% of the network from just four of the selected cities. Based on our analysis, we propose new strategies for preventing illegal trafficking and adoption of children. This analytical strategy can also be useful to study other transferring activities of relevance for sustainability, such as the trafficking of adults, wildlife or waste.

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Fig. 1: Ratio between children trafficked in and out of each province.
Fig. 2: Child-trafficking patterns and degree centralities of cities.
Fig. 3: Child-trafficking cluster and node betweenness of cities.

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The authors thank Y. Han of Huazhong University of Science and Technology for her suggestions.

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Authors and Affiliations



Z.W. and L.D. designed this study. Z.W. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. L.W. collected the data. S.P. prepared and pre-analysed the data. B.N. visualised the data. All authors evaluated the results.

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Correspondence to Zhen Wang.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Figs 1–4, Tables 1–3, Discussions 1–3 and References

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Wang, Z., Wei, L., Peng, S. et al. Child-trafficking networks of illegal adoption in China. Nat Sustain 1, 254–260 (2018).

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