Filial piety is one of the tenets of Chinese culture, and, according to China’s second most recognized classical philosopher Mencius (孟子), the worst of the three ways one could be unfilial is not having children (不孝有三，无后为大 / 不孝有三，無後為大).
This cultural expectation combined with Chinese couples delaying having children and a possible rise in infertility rates have led to an increase in the use of surrogates. In two articles, The New York Times reports on Chinese seeking surrogates abroad and a growing domestic black market for surrogates.
In the past few years, an increasing number of Chinese nationals have looked to surrogacy agencies in the United States for assistance with having a child. With the basic package starting at 200,000 USD, the agencies cater to the wealthy. The reasons for going abroad vary. Some prefer the more personal quality of in vitro treatments in the United States, others are taking advantage of jus soli rules hope to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children by having the baby delivered on U.S. territory or are trying to skirt China’s family planning policies. Statistics for this trend are unavailable, but indicators of this trend include: one agency’s plan to open an office in Shanghai and having a baby in the United States being part of the plot of the popular romantic comedy Finding Mr. Right (北京遇上西雅图 / 北京遇上西雅圖).
In China, despite being illegal, surrogacy has also increased. An underground industry that utilizes both rural Chinese women and poor immigrants from countries like Vietnam as surrogate mothers is booming produces over 10,000 births a year. A network of brokers and clinics is established but is unregulated. Surrogates can make a significant amount of money, but they have few legal protections and the surrogacy agencies strictly control their lives during the process, overseeing hormone treatments, isolating them from friends and family, and taking steps to make sure they do not develop an emotional attachment to the baby.
It will be interesting to see whether the United States and Chinese governments step in to address these trends.