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Adam Minter

The Ad That Cracked China's Infertility Taboo

E-commerce site's offer could ease the stigma attached to sperm donations.
China needs more.

China needs more.

Photographer: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The flash deal was unlike any that had appeared before on the Chinese group-buying website Juhuasuan: Qualified young men could be paid as much as 5,000 yuan ($805) for making a donation to a government-run sperm bank. The colorful advertisement only appeared for two days on the site owned by the e-commerce titan Alibaba, but it received 22,017 responses.

In China, where public discussion of sex remains tightly controlled by the government, the pitch was the equivalent of a cry for help. The country's infertility rates are rising rapidly among couples of child-bearing age, reaching 12.5 percent in 2012, compared with 3 percent in 1992, according to a government study. There are about 40 million infertile couples in China, as well as a chronic shortage of sperm donations.