Why are westerners interested in Chinese girls?

Life in a lawless space

Along the border with Burma, the Chinese indulge in vices that are forbidden in China. On the Burmese side, rebels and business people benefit. But border tourism also has its downsides.

When asked whether there was ivory for sale, the saleswoman replied with "No" and a meaningful smile. She doesn't trust the westerners who are interested in the processed tusks of elephants, whose trade is internationally prohibited. That's why she has jade on offer, she says, referring to the bulging shelves in which the gemstone can be bought in various designs and in all price categories. Her shop is in Daluo, a sleepy town in the southwest of the Chinese province of Yunnan, which at 394,000 square kilometers is almost ten times the size of Switzerland. The Burma border is just a stone's throw from the jade specialist shop. A truck is waiting at customs to be cleared. Otherwise the area looks deserted.

Gambling and prostitution

Western visitors need a visa to enter Burma, which must be applied for weeks in advance. In contrast, the Chinese can cross the border for 3 yuan (45 cents) a day. An enterprising Chinese knows the problems facing Westerners and offers to smuggle them past the border guards to Burma in the back seat of his motorcycle for 200 yuan (30 francs). He can also provide overnight accommodation in Mang La, the first place across the border, adds the motorcyclist, who does not wear a helmet but is wearing sunglasses. This offer has a simple ulterior motive: the Chinese who set out for this deserted area do not come because of the mild climate, the enchanting mountains and fauna. In Mang La and the surrounding area, they indulge in vice that is forbidden in their homeland: in the casinos they are looking for thrills and quick money, they "amuse themselves" with young - often underage - women and girls, and consume all kinds of drugs , eat rare animals and buy forbidden goods such as ivory or tiger paws. One day is not enough for that, is the encrypted message from the motorcyclist.

While the long arm of the state can be seen and felt on the Chinese side and there are border patrols in the forests to track down drug traffickers, there is a legal vacuum on the Burmese side. Burma's state has in the ‚ÄúSpecial Region No. 4 ¬Ľnothing to report, instead rebels have the area under control - apparently with the blessing of Beijing. The yuan is the common currency, electricity, telecommunications and infrastructure also come from the Middle Kingdom. It is an open secret that there are businessmen on the Chinese side who are supplying the rebels with weapons and making money from the status quo in this part of Burma. This is not a one-way street. On the Burmese side, businessmen and rebels fill their pockets with the money of the pleasure-seeking Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese and Japanese.

Away from the paved roads, one quickly approaches the Chinese-Burmese border on foot. Abandoned buildings can be seen in the forest. The outer walls are missing, the former reception is exposed to wind and rain, the clocks on the wall stopped ticking a long time ago. Nature takes back what belongs to her. It is unclear which side of the border you are on. The inscription on a weathered stone suggests that you have left the People's Republic. Motorcyclists keep coming by - some return laden from Burma, others leave China. It doesn't take long for the driver who drove one to this region from the capital, Jinghong of the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, to call and warn of Chinese border patrols, who were particularly active on the lookout for drug smugglers and visa-free travelers that day.

At the expense of the state

The drive from Jinghong to the southwestern part of Yunnan Province took around two and a half hours. Again and again there were police checks, during which the officers suspiciously checked the passport and asked for the reason for travel. In the background soldiers lurked with machine guns at the ready. Their main job is to search cars and trucks for drugs and other goods illegal in China. Well-developed roads lead through the mountainous region with tropical vegetation and through small towns where newly built houses can be seen. They are the result of subsidies from Beijing - just like the well-developed infrastructure. For those in power, roads, bridges, railway connections and intact telecommunications connections are the prerequisites for areas in the most remote parts of the country to prosper. The southern part of Yunnan is also an example of Beijing's minority policy. The Dai, one of the 56 minorities recognized by the Chinese central government, live in this region. In China there are said to be around 1.3 million people who culturally, historically and physiognomically belong to the Thai ethnic group and who often have problems with the Chinese language.

Nevertheless, the driver says there are no problems between the Dai and Han Chinese. Like many in the region, he himself originally comes from Hunan Province, from which Mao Zedong also comes. During the lifetime of Chairman Mao, the Dai were settled in Yunnan to guard the borders with Burma and Laos. If there were any friction, then Han Chinese would fight among themselves, says the chauffeur. A rich Chinese recently lost a lot of money in a casino on the Burmese side that was run by the Han Chinese. Then the relieved of a lot of money sent his thugs to Mang La. They ensured a solid fight. When asked what the Dai's main source of income is, the driver doesn't have to think twice. "The state," he says like a shot. Tea, fruits and vegetables are grown in the area. However, the farmers cannot make big leaps with it. With state subsidies, the central government wants to ensure that minorities also benefit from economic growth and are not completely left behind by the rich regions on the east coast of China.

Good Burmese chickens

Not far from the Chinese-Burmese border is the Dai Museum Village Meng Jinglai, in which more than 100 families live and which can be visited for a proud 50 yuan, a little more than 7 francs. Near the entrance, head of state and party leader Xi Jinping smiles mildly from a poster and greets the guests - mostly Han Chinese. Western visitors rarely come to this area. The picturesque wooden houses stand on steles to protect the living area from moisture. In addition to stalls selling fruit and vegetables, there are shops selling schnapps, towels and pottery.

The 33-year-old Yan Ying is also waiting for customers. He specializes in tea from the region. This is grown without the use of pesticides in his wife's home village, he says. At the tea ceremony, he points to his two-year-old daughter who is playing on the street. Compared to his friends, he became a father at an advanced age. Before that, however, he had barely had time to take care of family planning. He worked in a town sixty kilometers from Meng Jinglai for a few years before returning to his wife with some money in his pocket.

Now he not only sells tea, but also trades in Burmese chickens. Yan says he buys the animals across the border because they are more decent than the Chinese. China's poultry are considered gruff, although borders should be alien to chickens. Yan does not only talk about the neighboring state because of its merchandise. Meng Jinglai Village has had a difficult time.

In 2002, tourism initially picked up with Chinese people who stopped in the village on their pleasure trip to Burma. However, this flow would soon dry up because China temporarily closed the border in Daluo. The lawlessness in the border town was apparently a thorn in the side of the rulers - even if they soon closed both eyes again. For a year now, tourists have been returning to Mang La because of the legalized trip. According to Yan, the hustle and bustle in the gambling paradise also has its downsides.

The young women go

The men in Meng Jinglai and the surrounding area are struggling to find a partner. Many young women left their homeland at the age of 18 or 19 in order to earn money on the Burmese side as prostitutes or as second and third wives to rich Chinese or Japanese, says Yan. However, the supposed happiness does not last long. At the latest when they become pregnant or the very young women get older, the interest of their financiers expires. The only thing left for the rejected is to return home.

The men in Meng Jinglai and the surrounding area have no choice but to marry a returnee due to the lack of alternatives. In addition, the women bring something with them that, in the opinion of many Dai and Han Chinese, one can never have enough: money. There were no unpleasant questions about the past, says Yan, and continues to pour tea with stoic composure.