The burgeoning personal protection industry is a reflection of the dramatic growth in prosperity here that has created a new class of wealthy Chinese – but that has also exacerbated the already-wide chasm between the haves and have-nots.
As millions of Chinese have grown richer – and often indulge in the ostentatious trappings of new money – so, too, has the resentment increased from those left behind, threatening the ruling Communist Party’s stated goal of maintaining social stability. There have been stories here of kidnappings of wealthy people, contract hits being ordered by disgruntled business associates, and increasing random acts of violence. China this year has been hit by a spate of vicious attacks on kindergarten and primary school children, which some psychologists have blamed on the economic dislocation.
“The booming of the security industry reflects the rich people’s worry about the safety of their families and themselves,” said Ni Shoubin, professor with the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. “The population is disgusted by how these rich people are becoming rich, and all society has started to hate rich people. And the rich people must feel that resentment, and it makes them feel insecure.”
Private bodyguards now do everything from protecting wealthy celebrities and businessmen to assisting in security for such major events as the Shanghai World Expo.
That rapid growth has prompted the Chinese government to start trying to rein in the industry. Up to now, the private security firms have operated in a legal “gray area,” with no guidelines, regulations or standards – and with long-established security consultants such as Zhe fretting that many are fly-by-night outfits that could tarnish the entire industry.