From Overseas Press

As China's wealthy grow in numbers, so do their protectors

Updated: 2010-09-21 11:11
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Private bodyguards may become "the most visible sign of the explosion of private wealth in China," said an article in the Washington Post on Sept 19.

They work as "drivers or nannies, or blend into a businessman's coterie looking like a secretary, a briefcase carrier or a toady." Unlike their counterparts in the United States, "they are generally not tall and imposing; in fact, many are women, on the theory that females in the retinue attract less attention."

Another difference is that they are never armed, since "private citizens in China are largely prohibited from owning firearms." Rather, "Chinese bodyguards are martial arts experts, trained to disarm or subdue an attacker with a few quick thrusts, jabs and hand chops."

The "burgeoning personal protection industry is a reflection of the dramatic growth in prosperity that has created a new class of wealthy Chinese," who may encounter with "kidnappings, contract hits being ordered by disgruntled business associates and increasing random acts of violence." According to Ni Shoubin, professor with the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, "The booming of the security industry reflects the rich people's worry about the safety of their families and themselves."

Private bodyguards now "do everything from protecting wealthy celebrities and businessmen to assisting in security for such major events as the Shanghai World Expo."

However, although "the rapid growth has prompted the Chinese government to start trying to rein in the industry," "the private security firms have operated in a legal ‘gray area', with no guidelines, regulations or standards. Many are fly-by-night outfits that could tarnish the entire industry."

Although "China is still a relatively safe country, its violent crime is on the rise." A report by China's Academy of Social Sciences this year "found a dramatic increase in violent crime."

Therefore, many "China's new wealthy elite have decided to maintain a lower profile." "Some are dispensing with the usual displays of luxury. And increasingly, they are turning to private security companies for protection."