New review at The New Republic:

In 2011, when I was researching a book on international adoption, I met a man who made the incredible claim that he had founded a benevolent child-trafficking ring in China, whisking baby girls away from near-certain infanticide to the safety of North American adoptive homes. Because of what he described as widespread Chinese disregard for daughters—so undervalued, he contended, that he’d seen infant girls’ bodies stacked in a government warehouse—he said he’d developed a network of baby smugglers around China. They transported infants in duffle bags from rural provinces to cities; then onto airplanes with women pretending to be their mothers; and, ultimately, into the loving arms of adoptive families in the West.

I didn’t pursue the story. Too little of what he said checked out; too much seemed like exaggeration or outright fabrication. But something about his claims stuck with me: In what other context, I wondered, would a person boast that he was trafficking children, except perhaps when the country he was talking about had been cast as a place where girls were universally considered “maggots in the rice” and were said to be “dumped on the streets like kittens in a sack”? Was this man’s tall tale based on a long-established, starkly black-and-white narrative about China, its daughters, and international adoption?

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