Enter the dragon: Inside Chinese human smuggling organizations

Sheldon Zhang, Ko Lin Chin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


This paper examines the inner workings of Chinese human smuggling organizations. Contrary to widely held conceptions about Chinese organized crime, most alien smugglers are otherwise ordinary citizens whose familial networks and fortuitous social contacts have enabled them to pool resources to transport human cargoes around the world. They come from diverse backgrounds and form temporary alliances to carry out smuggling operations. With the exception of a shared commitment to making money, little holds them together. The smuggling organizations mostly resemble ad hoc task forces and are assembled for specific operations. These organizations have clear divisions of labor with limited hierarchical structures. We discuss the theoretical implications of their unique organizational characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-768
Number of pages32
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


  • Chinese criminality
  • Chinese organized crime
  • Human smuggling
  • Transnational crime


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