Go to America with a big belly! Chinese pregnant women's full itinerary revealed in the United States
The reporter went to Los Angeles and tried to find out why this unique social phenomenon was born and how it affects the fate of everyone involved through field interviews with various key roles in the birthing ecosystem in the United States.
U.S. Senator Jacob M. Howard of Michigan, United States would not have imagined that a legal provision he drafted to protect the rights of black citizens would prompt tens of thousands of Chinese mothers to travel abroad more than 140 years later. Through the ocean, the life in the belly was born on the land on the other side of the earth.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was officially passed. The first paragraph of the amendment stipulates: "Anyone born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen of the United States and the state in which they live." This means that any child born in the United States is born a citizen of the United States and does not need to be considered. Nationality of parents. Nowadays, under the support of this law, more and more Chinese couples expect to have their children born on the other side of the ocean to change the fate of the next generation. They hope that this child with a US passport will have the opportunity to enjoy the education, welfare and living environment of the United States from the moment he comes into the world.
If we say that going to the United States to give birth was once a niche behavior of wealthy people, now it has become a social trend that cannot be ignored. The production cost of 20 to 30 yuan is also affordable for middle-class families. Under the confluence of various factors, Los Angeles, located on the west coast of the United States, has become the most concentrated choice for births in the United States. In the local area, a large and complete industrial chain of children going to the United States has been formed, and gradually revealed its complex and subtle side. While the surging Chinese pregnant women have brought huge benefits to this industrial chain, they have also exceeded its original carrying capacity, and various intriguing stories have been born.
One hour before the plane landed at Los Angeles International Airport, Sun Ningning entered the bathroom with a small bag and began to prepare for smooth customs clearance. Putting on makeup, wearing high heels, and tying belly belts has only one purpose. Customs officers feel like a fashion girl who loves to travel and come to enjoy the beautiful sunshine of California, rather than an expectant mother who has been pregnant for nearly seven months. The child was born on American territory.
Although she received repeated reminders from the childbirth agency before departure, she must inform the customs officer of the true purpose of the trip when entering the country, so as not to be judged dishonest and be sent back to the country immediately, but she decided after repeated consideration. You should take a risk yourself. She is unwilling to believe the intermediary's rhetoric, nor does she want to believe that customs officers will give her a 6-month stay without cross-examination. She prefers to believe in her ability to pretend.
She succeeded. More than three months later, Sun Ningning was sitting in a confinement center in Rowland Heights, Los Angeles, sharing with a few friends the joy of the child's coming full moon. When she recalled the customs clearance experience, a friend interrupted and said that it seemed to be very similar to the role played by Tang Wei in "Beijing Meets Seattle". She smiled and replied: "Yes, but I saved one step from her. She went to the bathroom to'arm' after getting off the plane, and I finished it on the plane. If I spend time dressing up after landing, wait for me When I passed the customs, the other people on the same plane basically finished and left, so I was too noticeable and it was difficult to get through."
On July 7, I set off from the Capital Airport and arrived in Los Angeles after a 28-hour flight. When queuing from the customs to enter, there were at least 12 Chinese pregnant women with their belly in front of me. They adjusted their breathing and tried to make their expressions look relaxed and natural, so as not to arouse the suspicion of the officers. They hold a thick stack of documents in order to prove to the other party when they are cross-examined that I have enough financial strength to cover all the expenses and will not occupy the welfare resources of the United States.
As they wished, they all cleared the customs smoothly. The moment the customs officers returned their passports, everyone couldn't hide their excitement. Prior to this, they had waited for this moment for half a year or even longer. The six-month stay period stamped on their passports meant that they were halfway from achieving their ultimate goal.
Their goal is only one: they hope that their children will be distinguished from themselves from the moment they are born-to become an American citizen.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed. The first paragraph of the amendment stipulated: "Everyone born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen of the United States and the state in which they live."
More than 140 years later, because of the existence of this amendment, more and more young couples set off from the Chinese mainland and born their lives on the other side of the earth. They hope to change the destiny of the next generation, so that the child with a US passport will have the opportunity to enjoy the education, welfare and living environment of the United States from the moment he comes into the world. Some of them have more long-term considerations-this may create convenience for their future immigration.
If we say that going to the United States to give birth was once a niche behavior of wealthy people, now it has become a social trend that cannot be ignored. When Sun Ningning shared her childbirth experience with us, there were about 1 Chinese women who were about to give birth or had just given birth in the apartment community called "Peacock Garden" where she was. And one day ago, I was attending a child’s full moon lunch in a Chinese restaurant. A mother kept reminding another mother that she must depart 10 hour earlier than planned to catch the flight back to China the next morning. The husband of a domestic airline as the captain told her that there will be a total of 8 mothers returning home with their newborn children on this plane, while the plane provides only XNUMX cradles.
There are more than 800 apartments in the Peacock Garden community, among them, Chinese pregnant women who make a special trip to give birth live in Chengdu. At three or four o'clock in the afternoon, walking on the street next to the community, except that the shop signs use traditional characters, it hardly feels different from a small domestic town. Supermarkets, restaurants, laundry rooms, and hairdressers are all oriental. Passing by a Sichuan restaurant called "Xin Sichuan", you can hear the proprietress entertain guests in pure Chengdu dialect.
The sun gradually went west, and the weather became cooler in the evening. After dinner, the pregnant women walked out of the community and walked on the street. At this time, I can truly understand why this place is called "a street for pregnant women." When I saw dozens of Chinese women with big bellies appearing at the same time on a foreign street no more than 50 meters in length, I couldn't help but sigh to a mother who had just given birth to a baby next to me. This was an unimaginable spectacle. She smiled and said, "Yes, if you are not a pregnant woman, you can hardly fit into the environment of Rowland Heights."
As she said, it is an endless stream of confinement centers, a steady stream of pregnant women, which supports the ecological environment of the entire Rowland Heights. This is the real China Maternity City. Just earlier this year, an American supermarket here closed down because of lack of interest, and it was replaced by a Chinese supermarket. On the opposite side of it, another larger Chinese supermarket is also under construction.
She pointed to a Chinese supermarket named "Dahua" and said: "It is full of Chinese goods, and it is more comprehensive and cheaper than domestic products. My mother came to accompany me to confinement. She can't speak a word of English, but There is no problem living here for a month or two."
Why go to the United States to have a baby?
Some intermediary agencies that charge for childbirth business in the United States try to give standardized answers: "Become a U.S. citizen, enjoy visa-free entry to more than 180 countries with diplomatic relations, enjoy 13 years of free compulsory education in the United States, low thresholds, and low tuition to enter famous American universities. Save millions of studying abroad fees, easily enjoy various American social welfare measures, and parents apply for immigration as guardians..." If giving birth to a child is considered an investment, they think it is obviously the best choice. "Give me 10, and give you an American baby worth 980 million"; "The return on investment in the United States gives birth to a child more than'robbing the bank'", even "for the next Chinese American president."
Asking this question to mothers who are about to give birth to or have already given birth to "Meibao", their answers are not as provocative as the media's propaganda, but they also have their own reasons-some people are trying to have a second child and avoid the mainland. Some people’s family planning policy is for curve immigration, and some people answer very seriously, traveling across the ocean, just to get rid of the control of the mother-in-law at this important life node.
Haruko, a 40-year-old full-time wife, gave birth to her second child in the United States in 2010 in order to avoid the fine for having a second child. She did not hesitate to apply for one-child political asylum before the child's full moon, and she stayed with her two children-even if it required the cost of living in two places with her husband who runs a business in China and not being able to return to China within 5 years. "We are not short of money, but there are a lot of things in China that you can't give to your children no matter how rich you are. Just to let the baby breathe fresh air from an early age, I must stay." In April this year, she was born in Los Angeles. The third child was born.
I talked with nearly 20 mothers in Los Angeles and Beijing about the motivations of going to the United States to give birth. Most people’s ideas are not as extreme as Haruko, but they also have certain commonalities-high-quality education, clean air, and safety. Food, complete medical care... They hope that the next generation will have the opportunity to get these, but the current situation in China cannot meet their expectations.
Once, the first choice for people with this kind of mentality was not the United States, but Hong Kong, where the language is spoken and closer. Because the fertility rate was once among the lowest in the world, and out of worries about the aging of the population, the Hong Kong government once encouraged mainland residents to go to Hong Kong to have children and let their children become "Hong Kong permanent residents." However, the rapid increase in the number of newborns in the Mainland quickly overwhelmed Hong Kong's public service system. Since 2007, policies have been gradually tightened and production costs have also increased significantly.
Correspondingly, in April 2006, Chinese citizens were allowed to apply for a tourist visa to the United States for a period of 4 months. Moreover, pregnancy is not included among the various reasons for refusal. This means that pregnant women have plenty of time to enter the United States at the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy and return to China after confinement. With this change, more and more families expecting to give birth have turned their attention from Hong Kong to the United States.
In April 2012, the new Hong Kong government announced that it would completely stop accepting "double non-pregnant women" whose spouses are not Hong Kong residents. In order to strictly prevent pregnant women from the Mainland, women from the Mainland will be required to "beat their stomachs" when they enter Hong Kong. Under the new policy environment, the advertising slogan of intermediary agencies came into being: "Hong Kong is closed to give birth, and the road to the United States is unblocked!" The number of people going to the United States to give birth quickly ushered in an explosive growth, and pregnant women flew from different cities in China to the same city. One destination: Los Angeles.
“It’s definitely not accidental that Los Angeles has become the base camp of the confinement center.” On the way from the airport to his confinement center, Zhang Rongkui took the initiative to analyze the reasons why Los Angeles became the first choice for pregnant women: “First, the climate here is good, and it’s all year round. It is more than XNUMX degrees Celsius, neither cold nor hot nor humid. Pregnant women feel very comfortable whenever they come. Second, there are the most Chinese here, and they can live easily without a word of English. Third, the medical expenses here are low. Get off the plane with your stomach upright and fly back with your baby. The one-stop service is cheap and worry-free."
Zhang Rongkui, 45, has immigrated to the United States for three years. Born in Jingzhou, Hubei Province, he went to work in a laundry shop in Beijing more than XNUMX years ago. He married Luo Xueling, a woman from Anhui who is also a laundry worker, and jointly opened a laundry shop and expanded it step by step to become a national chain. Baijia's Rongchang washing and dyeing.
In 2010, Zhang Luo and his wife gave birth to their second daughter in Hong Kong. For Zhang Rongkui, who grew up in the countryside, he regarded it as a major change in the fate of his family. After the birth of her daughter, there were a steady stream of friends who came to consult, and Zhang Rongkui gradually realized that this might be a business.
After the age of 40, Zhang Luo and his wife, who have achieved financial freedom, are eager to get out of the state of working hard to change their way of life. At this time, the eldest daughter graduated from junior high school, hoping to go to the United States for further education and mobilize her parents to immigrate as soon as possible. The grassroots couple did not want to retire early when they had nothing to do in a foreign country. When they were worried about this, the gate to Hong Kong to give birth was gradually closing. Zhang Rongkui keenly judged what this would mean. He quickly bought 200 villas in the new district next to Arcadia University City in Los Angeles at a cost of 4 million U.S. dollars, and set up a confinement center when the birth boom in the United States just broke out.
Zhang Luo and his wife still do not speak English, but this does not create many obstacles to their business in Los Angeles. Years of development of the confinement center in the local area has formed a complete and huge industrial chain. The roles of each link in this chain, such as chefs, confinements, drivers, doctors... are almost all Chinese speaking Chinese. The owner of a confinement center sighed to me and said: "This business happened on American soil, but the whole process is for the Chinese to make Chinese money."
The trend of going to the United States to have children has really risen in the last two years. In contrast, the history of the development of the confinement center has to grow a lot. As early as XNUMX or XNUMX years ago, some Taiwan residents chose to give birth to their children in the United States in order to save their children from military service. At first, pregnant women went to relatives and friends in Los Angeles to give birth. As more and more Taiwanese pregnant women choose this route, some families who have received pregnant women began to try to turn it into a business and hire specialized chefs and drivers. Wait. The confinement industry gradually took shape.
After 2007, Taiwan’s economy fell into a long-term downturn, and the fertility rate continued to fall. The bosses of the confinement center thought that the business would die out, but the tourist visas issued to the mainland of China gave the industry an unprecedented boom. Lina, a confinement center owner who immigrated from Taiwan, sighed to me: "Taiwan has a population of more than XNUMX million after all. How many people are there in the Mainland? This market is too big to imagine."
As one of the local Chinese obstetricians and gynecologists with the best reputation, Han Pengfei has the most direct experience of this change. His clinic is only a ten-minute walk from the Peacock Garden, the most dense confinement center, and has been in business for 19 years. From the check-up to the delivery, the fee for a normal delivery is US$2100, and a Caesarean section is US$3100. Hospitalization costs are extra, depending on normal delivery or caesarean section, about 2000 to 5000 US dollars.
He came to the United States to study medical school from Taiwan more than XNUMX years ago. After graduation, he chose to practice in Los Angeles because there are the most pregnant women in Taiwan. But nowadays, the situation has undergone a subversive change: "I used to see ten Taiwanese mothers, not necessarily a mainland mother. Now it's completely reversed." In order to receive surging mainland pregnant women, in two years, His team has tripled in size.
When Han Pengfei introduced each member of his team one by one with his fingers, I could observe the expression full of accomplishment on his face. But when I talked about the question of "how many mainland pregnant women will be delivered every month now", he was unwilling to answer this positively.
This somewhat confused me. Han Pengfei explained that this is because answering this question will cause some complicated understandings and even misunderstandings. "Speaking of a specific number, some people will think it is less and some people will think it is more. People who think less will think that this doctor's business is so deserted and untrustworthy. People who think more will think in their hearts that he is too busy and may not be able to take care of him. Good me. So I don’t talk about specific figures, I can only say that every mother who comes to me will get the most thoughtful service."
Han Pengfei's sensitivity to this issue is not unnecessary. For pregnant women living in the confinement center, one of the core topics of daily communication is to discuss which doctor should be hired to deliver their babies. Any negative evaluation may affect the final choice. I have heard more than once a story told by pregnant women with fear on their faces: A well-known Chinese doctor performs caesarean section operations on three pregnant women at the same time. The three are lined up, and the sutures share the same surgical thread. Finally it was cut.
Han Pengfei's caution reflects the increasingly complicated and subtle side of going to the United States to give birth. While the rapid growth of the scale of pregnant women has brought huge benefits to this industry chain, it has also exceeded its original carrying capacity. All kinds of intriguing stories were born.
For pregnant women who dream of giving their children an American identity, smooth entry is the first and most critical hurdle to realize their dreams. Once it fails, all plans will be vanished.
In the early years, whether it was a childbirth agency or a pregnant woman, the habitual thinking about entry was to pretend to be an ordinary tourist-holding a tourist visa, but the real purpose is to produce the next generation and obtain American citizenship for it. This seems not to be A matter of declaring.
However, as more and more people go to the United States to give birth, Los Angeles Customs has begun to give priority to Chinese pregnant women who conceal their purpose. Sun Ningning's meticulous dressing helped her get through lucky, and more pregnant women did not have such good luck. A long-lived story among pregnant women in the United States is that a pregnant woman deliberately wore loose clothes to cover her swollen belly, claiming that she was on a vacation, and after passing customs, she was found to be a pregnant woman by the customs when she picked up her luggage and was sent home. .
In fact, confessing that he came to the United States to give birth does not lead to the fate of repatriation. The U.S. Embassy in China has publicly stated that there is no law against foreign pregnant B1/B2 (business and tourist visas) or other forms of visas to enter the United States. What customs officers really cannot accept is concealment of entry intentions and dishonesty. With the lessons learned, telling the truth has become the mainstream choice for customs clearance. In order to ensure that they are foolproof, many pregnant women carry detailed property certificates with them to declare that they will not occupy US welfare resources.
Nevertheless, accidents still happen from time to time. On the fourth day of my arrival in Los Angeles, Zhang Rongkui set off at 10 am and went to the airport to meet a pregnant woman who had flown from Beijing. He waited at the airport from 11 am until 5 am the next day, and finally returned empty-loaded-including the pregnant woman he was about to pick up, a total of XNUMX people were repatriated to the country on the plane, including one. A young father who came to visit his newborn.
"There is indeed a certain chance of going through customs, and the rules summarized cannot cover all situations." Lin Ye, who had just returned to China, worked as an advertising salesman for a Beijing media. In April this year, when she entered Los Angeles, she was taken into a "little black house" by customs officers. She was detained for 4 hours before being released. "Sometimes we didn't lie, but we were nervous, we stumbled in communication, and were misunderstood by the other party. Or just a little bit of back, just in time to catch up with the customs officer who was in a bad mood. For mothers who want to go there in the future, I would advise them to avoid Asian detainees as much as possible. They are generally disgusted with Chinese coming to have children."
Although a friend of hers successfully entered the country, the customs only gave her a 15-day stay. She had to spend a few hundred dollars under the guidance of the Confinement Center, and asked a Chinese lawyer to apply for an extension for her, but this may adversely affect her re-entry to the United States in the future.
In response to similar situations, new countermeasures have emerged. Under the advice of intermediary agencies and confinement centers, many pregnant women chose a more secure route. They were willing to pay an extra XNUMX yuan for this-changing routes and entering from Hawaii. The customs on this tourist island Visitors holding legal visas almost always come.
After the customs clearance is successful, the next highlight is to find a suitable confinement center. When I came to a foreign country alone, it was not easy to find a place that satisfies myself during the months when I needed a comfortable environment and caring care most in my life. Some trivial details often make pregnant women who are alone have a strong sense of insecurity. Most of the pregnant women I interviewed have had the experience of changing the confinement center, or have had this idea.
When Xin Ying got married five years ago, she wanted to give birth to her child in the United States. But after getting pregnant at the end of last year, she worried that living alone in the United States for three months would cause problems, and began to hesitate. In the end, with the encouragement of two other expectant girlfriends, the three went to Los Angeles together.
Xin Ying thought that the three could take care of each other, but after arriving, everyone's opinions began to differ. "It's not that we have any contradictions, but that choosing a place to live is indeed a matter of subjective feelings. It is difficult to adjust, and it is difficult to reach agreement."
After several house inspections that could not reach a consensus, the three of them finally decided to move separately. Xin Ying rented a car, temporarily stationed in a hotel, and got up early every day to go out to see the house. Los Angeles is vast and sparsely populated. She often travels more than a hundred miles a day. However, it is always difficult for each confinement center to meet her expectations: poor food, too far from the hospital, inconvenient shopping, tension between pregnant women...In short, each has its own problems.
After many setbacks, she finally found a confinement center that was satisfactory in all aspects. But she moved out early the next morning because there were often trains passing by outside the window at night, and when she was undergoing a domestic birth check, the doctor told her that she had signs of threatened abortion and she must stay in a quiet environment. A few days later, she moved from the hotel to another confinement center. She lived for a week. The days were comfortable, but one evening she stumbled upon a python in a glass case covered with cloth. She almost Was scared and passed out.
It was difficult to find a comfortable place to live, coupled with the worry of miscarriage. During that time, Xin Ying's mood was close to collapse. She often dialed her husband's phone in the middle of the night without saying a word, just crying loudly. Only one month before giving birth, she really settled down. The cost of staying in a hotel, renting a car, and the liquidated damages paid to the confinement center cost her nearly $XNUMX in total.
In the past two years, there have been hundreds of newly born confinement centers. Compared with the past, it has become more difficult for pregnant women to screen and select. Lina recalled to me that more than ten years ago, the confinement center was still a niche phenomenon in the Los Angeles Chinese circle, with only about a dozen. "It's really everywhere now. Everyone wants to do it. Everyday there are people who open and close down every day." She opened a local yellow page of the latest edition. "Look, there are 10 confinements on each page. There are 37 pages of phone calls in the center. But there are still a lot of them that are not counted on the yellow pages, such as mine. There are more than seven or eight hundred."
Daisy Huang, in his 50s, is one of the new bosses born in the past two years. She married from Guangdong to the United States more than 2012 years ago and has been working as a full-time wife in Phoenix, Arizona ever since. In 800, her two children were close to adulthood, and she hoped that she could free up her hands and re-exercise Lingnan's business talents. So she went to Rowland Heights hundreds of miles away by herself, rented an apartment in the Peacock Garden, and set up a confinement center. Two years later, her business scale has expanded to more than a dozen shops, but she still regrets not renting a few more units when there are still vacancies in the Peacock Garden. "There are now more than 80 rooms left, and there are more than XNUMX people waiting in line for vacancy at property registration."
This is not a business with a high threshold. A pregnant woman can bring an income of 2 to 5 U.S. dollars to the owner of the confinement center. As long as there is a house and a source of customers, other things can be done by someone. This industry chain has been subdivided to the point that some people install Chinese TVs for confinement centers, some provide short-term English training for pregnant women, and some provide ID cards for newborns.
A document agent named Kiki, after occasionally helping a few friends from the Mainland to apply for documents three years ago, discovered that this is a business that has yet to be explored, so he formed a team of three or four people, full-time for newborns from the Mainland Acting for American identity. Three years later, the competition in this field has become quite fierce, and the fee for Kiki's agency for a set of documents has been reduced from US$3 to US$3. "Our current strategy is to make a little less for each transaction and increase the market share first."
Emily intervened in the confinement industry in another way and changed her destiny. Two years ago, after completing her master's degree in Los Angeles, she was frustrated by both returning to China to find a job and staying in the United States, so she started a job in the confinement center. She met Russell, a white obstetrician, a white obstetrician, when she accompanied a pregnant woman during a delivery. She suddenly realized that while most people are looking for Chinese doctors, there are also people who want to receive the services of white doctors. In March of this year, she volunteered to become Russell's Chinese assistant, introducing Chinese pregnant women to her and getting a commission from it.
When I met Russell, all Chinese pregnant women were waiting in line for the check-up in his clinic office. Russell said that Chinese pregnant women account for 70% of all his patients, thanks to the emergence of Emily. He specifically hired two Chinese nurses for this purpose and applied for a work visa for Emily. He also plans to continue to expand the size of the team. "The two offices next to them are empty and I am ready to rent them at any time."
In the face of huge business opportunities, more and more people want to get a share of it. Even Haruko, the mother of three children and a full-time wife of more than ten years, opened a confinement center one month after the birth of the third child. "I don't want to be idle anymore. I also want to have a career and a sense of accomplishment. But I have been a housewife for more than ten years, what else do I do now? The confinement center is the easiest to get started."
The house has become a key factor restricting the continued expansion of the confinement center. Rowland Heights and other traditional Chinese districts can no longer hold more confinement centers. Where there is a house, the operators of the confinement center will set their sights. There are more than one hundred satellite cities throughout the greater Los Angeles area, often separated by dozens of miles, but this has not stopped their enthusiasm for business expansion.
In Walnut, Corona, Arcadia...there are new confinement centers everywhere. Irvine is a young city that was born more than 30 years ago. It is located in an apartment community called Heritage Point. There used to be almost no Chinese. Since two years ago, a middle-aged man rented 20 at a time. After the apartment became a confinement center, half of the 300 apartments have accommodated pregnant women.
Zhang Rongkui's confinement center was opened in a new district called Azusa. The site was chosen because one of the buildings was to be used for self-occupation, and he wanted to stay away from the noise of Rowland Heights. If fully operational, his 4 villas can accommodate 15 pregnant women at the same time, but he is currently more willing to limit the number to 4 to 5 people. First, he has been tired for many years and does not want to break the current relatively leisurely life; second, he is worried that the sudden expansion of the scale will cause inadequate service and affect word-of-mouth. After all, he still has a lot of business in China. "To put it bluntly, people trust me and come to me because they think my domestic business is good. If they make negative comments, they will in turn affect the domestic business."
In the final analysis, Zhang Luo and his wife did not use the confinement center as a tool to make a living. For this wealthy family who does not understand English and cannot easily integrate into the American circle, the main purpose of doing this is to make friends and eliminate loneliness. .
Zhang Rongkui and Lina, although their backgrounds are completely different, they have one thing in common. They have a formal American identity and use their own real estate for the confinement center. Earlier confinement centers were mostly like this, but now the crazy growth is often another mode of operation.
In May 2013, Su Jing flew back to Beijing from Los Angeles with her daughter who had just been full moon. Half a year later, she flew to Los Angeles again. In the following time, she went back and forth between Beijing and Los Angeles a total of 5 times, with only one purpose, to establish her own confinement center.
Su Jing, 38, has been doing business in China for many years. During her more than 100 days of childbirth experience in Los Angeles, she also secretly investigated the confinement center industry. Long-term business judgment has convinced her that now is the best time to enter this industry.
She once thought that to get involved in this business, she must have a formal American identity. But after several months of childbirth experience, she discovered that on the contrary, it was a large group of people without green cards that promoted the explosion of this industry.
When many mothers return to China after giving birth, they have already figured out the whole process of going to the United States to give birth. There are often a lot of relatives and friends coming to ask for advice, and the confinement center also expects mothers to introduce more customers to them. As more and more people consulted, some mothers set up intermediary companies. But some people are not satisfied with just playing the role of intermediary, they want to become the leader in the business chain.
Su Jing is one of them. She found that the identity problem does not cause too much obstacle to the operation of the confinement center-the tourist visa is valid for one year and allows multiple round trips, and each time can stay for up to six months, which means that she can stay almost all year. In Los Angeles. If you are worried about the failure of the one-year follow-up visa, there is a more convenient method that is widely adopted by the bosses of the confinement center: spend a few thousand yuan to ask a study abroad agency to apply for a study visa, and you can stay in the United States for three or four years. .
For Su Jing, the source of customers is not a problem. The network resources accumulated over the years of doing business came in handy at this time. The core problem she wants to solve is the house. US law allows foreigners to buy houses, but it is not worth considering for her. The investment is too large, the payback period is too long, and the rooms are limited. What she needs is to exchange as little investment as possible for the largest possible business scale and make money quickly in a short time. "No one knows what will happen to the market in a few years."
Renting is a more reasonable choice, but she does not have a US green card and social security number, and lacks a credit history. It is difficult to rent a house from a native American. She can only rent a house from the local Chinese who are willing to rent the house.
However, the number of Chinese who own a large number of houses is limited. But the operators of the confinement center came up with a new solution. Mr. Shao from Shanghai, accompanied his wife to give birth to a child in Rowland Heights in March last year, and then shuttled between Shanghai and Los Angeles to become a confinement center. In more than a year, he has brought one or two hundred pregnant women from China.
At noon one day in early August, in a teahouse in Rowland Heights, Mr. Shao discussed cooperation with the manager of a Chinese supermarket. The store manager is about to retire, hoping to gain something in the confinement industry and earn more pension money for himself.
By observing this half-hour discussion, I understood Shao's way of rapidly expanding scale. He hopes that the manager of the supermarket will rent a large number of houses with his American identity first, and then he will sublet it from the manager at a higher price, and the manager can make the difference.
For Shao, this model greatly reduces his business risks. When he has accumulated enough orders, he starts the renting process, which can minimize the vacancy rate. Even if someone cancels temporarily and a small number of vacancies appear, he can still resell and rent to others. Moreover, if problems arise during the lease term, the landlord will question the person who rents the house directly, not him.
It is not difficult to understand why some pregnant women complain that the living environment they personally feel is far from the promotional pictures they see in China after they come to Los Angeles. Because when he took this order, the boss himself didn't know what the house she would live in in the future would be like.
After subletting, the operating cost of the confinement center has naturally increased. However, in the face of fierce competition, it has to offer low prices to attract pregnant women. They have to reduce costs in other ways, and the resulting shrinkage in service quality will ultimately have to be borne by pregnant women, and some conflicts will breed.
Some large-scale confinement centers often become the hardest hit areas for disputes. In Peacock Garden, a large confinement center with more than 30 apartments, pregnant women leave with luggage every week. But the boss will not worry about this, because a steady stream of pregnant women sent by the intermediary will fill up the vacancy at any time.
Sun Ningning moved out of this confinement center because she felt that the quality of the diet was greatly compromised compared to its publicity. She needs to walk for ten minutes to a centrally-served room to pick up the meal. Unpalatable is secondary, but the key is that she often fails to receive it. According to the legend, the unlimited supply of beverages and fruits are bought from the dollar store, and they are close to expiration or rotten.
When pregnant women check into the confinement center, they often pay a large deposit. When many people leave, they feel that they are weak and give up. But Sun Ningning asked to come back a lot. "If they don't give it to me, I will report it immediately. They are most afraid of this. After all, the confinement center is in a gray area in the United States. It is not illegal, but it is not legal."
Confinement is an authentic "Chinese characteristic." Americans do not have this habit, and confinement centers cannot apply for relevant business licenses. Unlicensed operation has become a major weakness. The confinement centers are often mixed in private houses. If the neighbors believe that it is suspected of disturbing the people and are reported, once it is investigated, it is an illegal operation and will be immediately closed.
In the eyes of Ms. Lin, who has emigrated for many years, the resentment of the locals is not difficult to understand: "Different people stand in different positions. When you interview the confinement center, they will definitely keep talking about their good side. But the locals do. I would think, Chinese children fly back after they are born, and send them back after many years to receive free education. Why don't you pay a penny of tax during this period?"
During the two-month period in Los Angeles, I have heard many times about the legend that the confinement center reported a competitor, which caused the other party to close. I asked Daisy Huang: Will the confinement center in the Peacock Garden report each other because of the fierce competition? She immediately waved her hand and said, "No. We are all in a group to keep warm, unanimously to the outside. If someone reports other houses in the yard and the police check in, then all of us will be unable to do business."
However, the battles between the confinement centers are being staged in other ways every day. There is always a bustling crowd at the entrance of the obstetrics and gynecology doctor's clinic. The most frequent people are not pregnant women and their families, but the confinement center staff with leaflets. Their purpose is to enumerate their own advantages and persuade pregnant women to leave the confinement center where they were originally located and switch to their own families.
In the face of peer digging, the confinement center has its own countermeasures. Some require pregnant women to pay all the fees at one time when they check in, some prevent pregnant women from purchasing local mobile phone cards to avoid frequent contact with other confinement centers, and some confinement centers only offer "luxury packages" of more than RMB 38, providing one pair One's "full escort" aims to completely cut off contact between pregnant women and other confinement centers.
The birth intermediary companies stationed in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are often regarded by pregnant women as a community of interests of the confinement center, but the relationship between the two is actually not a harmonious relationship. Haruko’s confinement center has just been opened for three months, and she has received many calls from domestic intermediary companies hoping to cooperate. Haruko is not against this. Every time the agent introduces a pregnant woman to her, she will pay her a commission of 800 US dollars, but the premise is that no exaggeration is allowed. "The intermediary likes to publicize things that we can't do the most. He makes money, but the pregnant woman came and found that there was a gap between the promotion and the publicity. It was me who got the scolding."
Su Jing thought that as long as she found a house, the confinement center could open soon. But when she really got involved and experienced the above-mentioned complex phenomena firsthand, she reminded herself to be careful. She rented 5 apartments in Irvine. After thinking that she knew all the "hidden rules", in April this year, she ushered in the first batch of residents. She hoped that she could continue to take care of the domestic business, so she invited the roommate she knew during confinement as a partner to station in Irvine to help her take care of specific affairs.
Three days after I came to Los Angeles, Su Jing also flew over from Beijing to discuss new cooperation opportunities. Before leaving, she sent me a WeChat invitation to visit her confinement center, and she was filled with excitement. But when I actually saw her, she sat slumped in a messy apartment with a frustrated expression-the partner took a few pregnant women and set up a stove, and when they left, she took away all the sheets and bedding in the room.
Su Jing couldn't control her anger, but she was helpless. She couldn't figure out why the other party left without saying goodbye. The other party blocked her WeChat and couldn't get through the phone. She also cannot resolve this dispute through legal means. Confinement Center is not a legally recognized business in the United States. There is no clear legal contract between the various roles in this industry chain, and they can only rely on mutual trust. Once there is a crack in trust, operations are likely to fall into chaos.
As a bystander, I have no way of judging what is right and wrong in this dispute, but what is certain is that this incident made Su Jing deeply depressed and unable to calm down. It took her at least a week to calm her emotions. "Although it seems that you are doing business in the United States, you are dealing with Chinese people, and you are still playing the domestic mutual calculations. Even, you will play more than domestically, because this is a foreign country and there are not many acquaintances. A lot of human bondage."
In the end, she settled all the expenses of the 5 apartments in advance and left Irvine, which was sad in her eyes. She has yet to get much return from this business, but the total investment in the initial stage is close to one million yuan. She rented a villa in Eastvale, hoping to start all over again. This time, she did not plan to find any other partners, but planned to apply for a student visa for her younger brother, and her family would take care of it.
Compared with the places where Chinese people live in Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights, walking on the streets of Isville, there are very few Chinese faces. In Su Jing's view, this may actually be a good thing. She felt that staying away from the confinement center might also mean staying away from worries.
During the half-month interview process, I was convinced of one thing-mothers who went to the United States to give birth have different motives and personalities, but they have similar characteristics-relatively independent thinking and strong heart. Otherwise, they will not be able to come to the strange and full of unknown oceans alone at the moments when they need the most considerate care in their lives to deal with all kinds of complicated and chaotic situations, as well as the panic and loneliness that it brings.
"Before I came here, I really didn't expect that giving birth to a child would have so much trouble." Sun Ningning sighed for a long time after telling the whole process of her birth in the United States. Her expression looked a bit complicated, like bitter. And a sense of accomplishment.
In addition to the customs clearance experience in disguise, conflicts with the confinement center and removal, the "trouble" she encountered even included the production process that was quite thrilling to others.
"There was an accident..."
"What is an accident? It is obviously a medical accident." When Sun Ningning told us her story, her mother always sat beside her without saying a word, but when her daughter was talking about this, she finally couldn't help but interject. .
In fact, before coming to Los Angeles, Sun Ningning and her mother had a long and difficult argument about going to the United States to give birth. When she was more than six months pregnant, she once compromised and paid a deposit of 10 yuan in advance at a confinement center in Hangzhou. But in the end, she insisted on her opinion, even if she would lose the deposit. The child has been born, and the differences between her and her mother still exist. "Your young people's ideas are too trendy, we don't understand." Her mother said to me with a serious face.
During the operation, Sun Ningning suffered heavy bleeding. Her mother insisted that this was caused by improper use of oxytocin by the attending doctor. But she herself does not want to dwell on the specific details at the time. In her view, since the child has been born and successfully obtained the American identity, all the difficulties and even the dangers experienced are worthwhile. Having said that, she couldn't help telling a story with a bit of black humor: In February this year, a Chinese pregnant woman who was 2 months pregnant felt that it was still early, so she went to Mexico with another pregnant woman. Unexpectedly, long-distance fatigue and climate change, the child was born early before returning to the United States.
There are three days to return to China. Sun Ningning has already applied for a US passport for her daughter. But she is still a little puzzled about her daughter's identity when she returns to China. Since China and the United States use two different logics (personal principles and territorial principles) for nationality determination, the issue of "Meibao"'s nationality and household registration has always been divergent in the birth circle of the United States.
The reality is that many mothers told me that they successfully completed the hukou for their children according to the normal channels, because when China determines nationality according to the personal principle, as long as the parents are Chinese, the child has Chinese nationality, and where is the birthplace? It doesn't matter. Children will indeed need to abandon one of the two nationalities of China and the United States in the future, but that is a choice that only needs to be made when they are adults. Before that, they will not be troubled by it.
But some people are not sure about it. After considering 3 months, Huang Bei, who was 7 months pregnant, gave up her plan to go to the United States to give birth. Although there have been many examples of friends who have successfully applied for a Beijing account for "Meibao", Huang Bei is still worried that he will fail by then. Once this happens, the child may face the fate of only going to an international school as an American. The cost of several hundred thousand yuan a year is beyond her reach.
She thinks this is an unpredictable bet: "Who knows how the policy will change in the future? It doesn't matter how much I suffer, but I can't risk the fate of my child."
Huang Bei directly gave up her plan to give birth in the United States because of careful consideration of the child's identity, and more people have no clear plans for the arrangements after the child is born. In their view, this is not a lack of planning, but because "plans can never keep up with changes."
Sun Ningning is one of them. Do I need to register my child? Where will the child receive education in the future? Do you have any plans to emigrate in the future? She said she can't even think about it now. "China’s development and changes are too fast. Children going to school will still be a matter of five or six years later. What will be the situation then? Who can tell now? What I can believe is that since so many friends around me are doing it. This matter, I believe, should not be a wrong choice for me."
Talking and talking, it's evening. The golden sunlight hit the window, as if to remind the pregnant women in the Peacock Garden that it was time to go out for a walk. They slowly got up and walked out of the apartment in groups, and the deserted streets gradually became noisy. The craze of going to the United States to give birth is like the bustling scene of Rowland Heights, and it is far from its hottest time.
(Thanks to Ms. Zheng Shuyang for her help in this article)
(At the request of the interviewees, some people in the text are named pseudonyms)
European and American Internal Reference