Liu Jianqiu was sentenced Thursday by the Dongguan Intermediate People's Court in Guangdong province, the Beijing Daily Messenger and other newspapers reported.
Ten other defendants were given sentences ranging from six years to life in prison, the paper said.
The gang was accused of kidnapping children at play in local markets by luring them with candy and toys, it said.
The children's parents were mostly migrant workers from elsewhere in China who worked at market stalls with their children in tow, it added.
Most of the children were later rescued, but 12 still haven't been found, the report said.
Chinese authorities say thousands of children are abducted or bought from poor families every year. The thriving underground trade is driven in part by China's birth control policy, which limits most couples to one child.
The government has vowed to crack down on human trafficking, with courts imposing lengthy prison terms and in some cases the death penalty.
Death sentences in China are automatically appealed, AP reports. P.T.
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