Experts in transborder criminal networks expose Chinese criminal underworld

06 November 2019

Alex Chung, Research Fellow at University College London and FLJS Research Associate, exposed the shady world of transborder criminal networks, in discussion of his new book Chinese Criminal Entrepreneurs in CanadaVolume I and Volume II at a FLJS colloquium at Wolfson College this week.

The book investigates an elusive and little-known breed of criminal entrepreneurs that originate from China known as the Big Circle Boys (BCB). This group remains an intrigue to organized crime specialists, but are reputed to be the biggest criminal network in the world, with earnings of billions of dollars each year from the illegal drug trade.

He described the group as an ethnically homogeneous network originating from South China, from where they smuggled themselves into Western countries, making bogus claims for refugee status to establish themselves in their host countries.

Having built a global network of bases, these gangs would then call upon contacts when needed to quickly mobilize labour in order to competitively dominate the heroin market, reaping vast profits.

Dr Chung argued that these gangs were at the forefront of a paradigm shift from more traditional, hierarchical organized crime groups to new forms of criminal networks. These Asian groups operate in a decentralized, ephemeral way, uniting and disbanding regularly, and are largely perceived as otherwise legitimate actors in their communities.

Joe Whittle from John Moores University, Liverpool, described the methodology employed in the research for the book, which he found particularly impressive given the notorious difficulty of building trust in Chinese culture, let alone infiltrating the inner world of Chinese criminal networks.

Tian Ma from De Montfort University, Leicester, highlighted the social network analysis and triangulation of sources that Dr Chung’s research draws on, and remarked on the originality of the finding that the BCB prefer to resolve conflicts through reputation management and reciprocal favours rather than resorting to violence.

The event was the latest in our termly series of Book Colloquiua, further details of which are available on our Programme pages.