Women in Criminal Market Activities: Findings from a Study in China

  • Anqi Shen
  • Georgios A. Antonopoulos
Part of the Studies of Organized Crime book series (SOOC, volume 14)


This chapter provides the findings from a Chinese study on females’ role in criminal entrepreneurial activities in the post-1978 reform era. It relies primarily on the empirical data drawn from a recent qualitative study on women and crime in China. The shows that women, commonly motivated by economic incentives, play a variety of roles in the criminal markets in China the country: from criminal leaders, business partners, supporters, occasional entrepreneurs to investors. Apart from taking a gender-sensitive approach, we have also considered social class, the individuals’ personal conditions, overall social changes and their interplay with women’s involvement in criminal markets.


Female criminality Illegal markets Organised crime China 


  1. Anderson, T. L. (2005). Dimensions of women’s power in the illicit drug economy. Theoretical Criminology, 9(4), 371–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Antonopoulos, G. A., & Hall, A. (2015). The Financial Management of the Illicit Tobacco Trade in the United Kingdom. British Journal of Criminology. doi: 10.1093/bjc/azv062.Google Scholar
  3. Arsovska, J., & Allum, F. (2014). Introduction: Women and transnational organised crime. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arsovska, J., & Begum, P. (2014). From West Africa to the Balkans: Exploring women’s roles in transnational organised crime. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 89–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey, P. (2012). Women and gender in twentieth-century China. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  6. Beare, M. (2010). Women and organised crime. Report No. 013. Ottawa: Research and National Coordination Organised Crime Division, Law Enforcement and Policy Branch, Public Safety.Google Scholar
  7. Block, A. (1980). Searching for women in organised crime. In L. H. Bowker (Ed.), Women and crime in America (pp. 192–213). New York: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  8. Box, S., & Hale, C. (1983). Liberation and female criminality in England and Wales. British Journal of Criminology, 35(23), 35–45.Google Scholar
  9. Broadhurst, R. (2012). Black societies and triad-like organised crime in China. In F. Allum & S. Gilmour (Eds.), Routledge handbook of transnational organised crime (pp. 157–170). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Cayli, B. (2015). Codes of commitment to crime and resistance: Determining social and cultural factors over the behaviours of Italian Mafia women. Deviant Behaviour. doi: 10.1080/01639625.2014.977206.Google Scholar
  11. Chen, M. (2008). Entrepreneurial women: Personal wealth, local politics and tradition. In D. S. G. Goodman (Ed.), The New Rich in China: Future rulers, present lives (pp. 112–125). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Chin, K.-L., & Finckenauer, J. O. (2012). Selling Sex Overseas: Chinese women and the realities of prostitution and global sex trafficking. New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Denton, B. (2001). Dealing: Women in the drug economy. Sydney: UNSWP.Google Scholar
  14. Denton, B., & O’Malley, P. (1999). Gender, trust and business: Women drug dealers in the illicit economy. British Journal of Criminology, 39(4), 513–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dunlap, E., & Johnson, B. (1992a). Structural and economic changes: An examination of female crack dealers in New York City and their family life. Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, New Orleans, November.Google Scholar
  16. Dunlap, E., & Johnson, B. (1992b). Who they are and what they do: Female dealers in New York City. Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, New Orleans, November.Google Scholar
  17. Dunlap, E., Johnson, B., & Manwar, A. (1994). A successful female crack dealer: Case study of a deviant career. Deviant Behaviour, 15, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dunlap, E., Johnson, B., & Maher, L. (1997). Female crack sellers in New York City. Women and Criminal Justice, 8(4), 25–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fiandaca, G. (2007). Women and the Mafia. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fleetwood, J. (2014). Keeping out of trouble: Female crack cocaine dealers in England. European Journal of Criminology, 11(1), 91–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gay, R. (2005). Lucia: Testimonies of a Brazilian drug dealer’s woman. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Goodman, D. S. G. (2004). Why women count: Chinese women and the leadership of reform. In A. E. McLaren (Ed.), Chinese women (pp. 19–41). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Grundetjern, H., & Sandberg, S. (2012). Dealing with a gendered economy: Female drug dealers and street capital. European Journal of Criminology, 9(6), 621–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hobbs, D. (1998). Going down the ‘glocal’: The local context of organised crime. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 37(4), 407–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hobbs, D., & Antonopoulos, G. A. (2014). How to research organised crime. In L. Paoli (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of organised crime (pp. 96–117). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hübschle, A. (2014). Of bogus hunters, queenpins and mules: The varied roles in women in transnational organised crime in Southern African. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 31–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Iacono, E. L. (2014). Victims, sex workers and perpetrators: Gray areas in the trafficking of Nigerian women. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 110–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jamieson, A. (2000). Mafiosi and terrorists: Italian women in violent organisations. SAIS Review of International Affairs, 20(2), 51–64.Google Scholar
  29. JSTV. (2015). Explore: Are human traffickers sentenced harshly or not in China? Assessed June 19, 2015, from
  30. Kelly, L. (2007). A conductive context: Trafficking of persons in Central Asia. In M. Lee (Ed.), Human trafficking (pp. 73–91). Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  31. Kleemans, E., & van de Bunt, H. G. (1999). The social embeddedness of organised crime. Transnational Organised Crime, 5(1), 19–36.Google Scholar
  32. Kleemans, E., & van de Bunt, H. G. (2008). Organised crime, occupations and opportunity. Global Crime, 9(3), 185–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kleemans, E., Kruisbergen, E., & Kowenberg, R. (2014). Women, brokerage, and transnational organised crime: Empirical results from the Dutch organised crime monitor. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 16–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kostakos, P., Antonopoulos, G. A., Maspero, A., & Grammatikakis, G. (2010, June 2–5). The role of women in ‘organized crime’ in Greece. Presentation at the John Jay College international conference Societies in Transition: Balancing Security, Social Justice and Tradition, Marrakesh, Morocco.Google Scholar
  35. Landesco, I. (1936). The woman and the underworld. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 26, 901–912.Google Scholar
  36. Longrigg, C. (1998). Mafia women. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  37. Liu, J. (2005). Crime patterns during the market transition in China. British Journal of Criminology, 45, 613–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Liu, M. (2012). Chinese migrant women in the sex industry: Exploring their paths to prostitution. Feminist Criminology, 7(4), 327–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mahan, S. (1998, March). Women’s place in organised crime. Paper presented at the annual Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences meeting, Albuquerque, New Mexico.Google Scholar
  40. Mancuso, M. (2014). Not all madams have a central role: Analysis of a Nigerian sex trafficking network. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 66–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller, J. (2001). One of the guys. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Mullins, C. W., & Wright, R. (2003). Gender, social networks and residential burglary. Criminology, 41, 813–840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ni, V. (2012). Consumption trends and targeting China’s female consumers. China Briefing. Accessed June 16, 2015, from
  44. Ng, N. (2015). Chinese police rescue 37 babies in trafficking bust. Accessed June 19, 2015, from
  45. Paoli, L. (2003). Maria Brothers. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Rofel, L. (1999). Other Modernities: Gendered yearnings in China after socialism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  47. Saich, T. (2015). Governance and politics of China (4th ed.). London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  48. Shen, A. (2013). Perception of organised crime: An exploratory study of British university students and Chinese university students at home. Paper presented at the annual conference of the British Society of Criminology, 1-4 July, University of Wolverhampton.Google Scholar
  49. Shen, A. (2015). Offending women in contemporary China: Gender and pathways into crime. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  50. Shen, A., Antonopoulos, G. A., & von Lampe, K. (2010). The dragon breathes smoke: Cigarette counterfeiting in the People’s Republic of China. British Journal of Criminology, 50, 239–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shen, A., Antonopoulos, G. A., & Papanicolaou, G. (2013). China’s stolen children: Internal child trafficking in the People’s Republic of China. Trends in Organised Crime, 16(1), 31–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shen, A., & Winlow, S. (2013). Women and crime in contemporary China: A review essay. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminology, 38(4), 327–42.Google Scholar
  53. Siegel, D. (2012). Mobility of se workers in European cities. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 18, 255–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Siegel, D. (2014). Women in transnational organised crime. Trends in Organised Crime, 17, 52–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Siegel, D., & Blank, S. (2010). Women who traffic women: The role of women in trafficking networks – Dutch cases. Global Crime, 11(4), 436–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smart, C. (1977). Women, crime and criminality – A feminist critique. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  57. Soudijn, M. (2010). Wives, girlfriends and money laundering. Journal of Money Laundering Control, 13(4), 405–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Steffensmeier, D. (1983). Organizational properties and sex-segregation in the underworld: Building a sociological theory of sex. Social Forces, 61, 1010–1032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Steffensmeier, D., & Terry, R. (1986). Institutional sexism in the underworld: A view from the inside. Sociological Inquiry, 56, 304–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Townsend, M., & McVeigh, T. (2009, September 6). Gangsters prey on young women to smuggle cigarettes. The Observer. Google Scholar
  61. Trevaskes, S. (2010). Policing serious crime in China: From ‘strike hard’ to ‘kill fewer’. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  62. Verdery, K. (1996). What was Socialism and what comes next? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vigil, J. D. (2008). Female gang members from East Los Angeles. International Journal of Social Inquiry, 1(1), 47–74.Google Scholar
  64. von Lampe, K. (2007). Criminals are not alone: Some observations on the social microcosm of illegal entrepreneurs. In P. van Duyne, A. Maljevic, M. van Dijck, K. von Lampe, & J. Harvey (Eds.), Crime business and crime money in Europe (pp. 131–156). Nijmegen: WLP.Google Scholar
  65. Wang, P. (2014). Extra-legal protection in China: How guanxi distorts China’s legal system and facilitates the rise of unlawful protectors. British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 809–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wang, P., & Antonopoulos, G. A. (2015). Organized crime and illegal gambling: How do illegal gambling enterprises respond to challenges caused by their illegality in China? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. doi: 10.1177/0004865815573874.Google Scholar
  67. World Journal. (2015). Official sent mistress to university studying law to gain counter-investigation knowledge and skills. Accessed June 18, 2015, from
  68. Wylie, C. (2004). Femininity and authority: Women in China’s private sector. In A. E. McLaren (Ed.), Chinese women – Living and working (pp. 42–64). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  69. Xia, M. (2006). Assessing and explaining the resurgence of China’s criminal underworld. Global Crime, 7(2), 152–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Xinhua News. (2015). Huang-jia-yi-hao (the Royal No 1 Nightclub in Zhengzhou) did not rely on prostitution to make huge profit. Accessed June 18, 2015, from
  71. Yan, Y. (2009). The individualisation of Chinese Society. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  72. Yang, M. G. (2012). Research on the correction systems for women in China. Nanjing: Nanjing University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Zhang, S., & Chin, K.-L. (2004). Characteristics of Chinese human smugglers. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  74. Zhang, S. X., Chin, K.-L., & Miller, J. (2007). Women’s participation in Chinese transnational human smuggling: A gendered market perspective. Criminology, 45(3), 699–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zheng, T. (2014). Prostitution and human trafficking. In L. Cao, I. Y. Sun, & B. Hebenton (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of Chinese criminology (pp. 197–208). Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  76. Zhong, L. Y. (2009). Communities, crime and social capital in contemporary China. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Sciences, Business and LawTeesside UniversityMiddlesbroughUK

Personalised recommendations