Private Security Firms & China’s Growing Population of Super-Rich

2013-10-10 11:21 | The Economic Observer
By Li Rong (李容) and Zhang Hua (张华) | October 7, 2013  
As a Shaolin Temple disciple since childhood, Shi Xingfeng, president of Bojing Security Agency, often has to remind himself to hide the heroic spirit that often glows from the eyes of martial arts masters.

“It’s professional discipline,” Shi says. “You’ve got to learn to be an invisible bodyguard.”

As a matter of fact, the Chinese super-rich are still not accustomed to the idea of having tall, strongly built men in suits and a solemn face hanging around. It’s considered too indiscreet. “In China, bodyguards are disguised as chauffeurs or secretaries to protect the clients’ safety better,” Shi explains.

But he also says there are cultural differences in the approach to paid protection. In the West, if a VIP’s hat has been blown off by the wind, his bodyguards are not to pick it up for him.  A Chinese magnate though expects such services. “The Chinese super-rich have yet to nurture such a concept — a bodyguard is there to protect his safety, not to be his babysitter,” Shi laments.

It was not until 2010 that privately run security services were even legalized in China, which is when Shi founded his security agency. He aspires to imitate Academi, formerly known as Blackwater USA, a security contractor that has worked for the U.S. State Department and usually retrains retired military or police personnel to become premium armed security guards.

Shi says Chinese often have a very poor awareness of their safety. “In China, many rich people are reluctant to hire bodyguards because they believe that it is showing off,” he explains. “They also worry about privacy.”

Moreover, since their homes and the venues they frequent are thought to be well-secured, VIPs in China don’t feel they are at particular risk. “The truth is that as public figures, rich people often attract hatred of the rich,” and are “in much greater danger than an ordinary person” of calculated attacks, Shi says.

After the Fact

Some 80 percent of Shi’s clients are entrepreneurs, but the majority of them came to him only after running into trouble. “Usually they have already encountered a real security problem in general verbal abuse, but sometimes even physical confrontations, before thinking about hiring bodyguards.”

The latest example is Zong Qinghou, China’s beverage tycoon and the 86th richest man in the world, according to Forbes’ Global Rich List. He was attacked walking out of his own house and injured by someone who had asked him for a job.

In most cases, whether they are robberies or retaliation, the perpetrators aren’t even “professional.” Had these entrepreneurs had a bit more awareness of safety issues, the tragedies wouldn’t have occurred.

A Whole Engineering System

As the number of China’s super-rich grows, so do concerns for personal safety. “The demand is related to economic development, especially in the coastal cities such as Beijing and Shanghai,” says Xin Yang, the general manager of Beijing Yunhai Elite Security.

Industry statistics show that China currently has some 4,000 licensed security firms with as many as 4.3 million security agents and an annual turnover of about 40 billion RMB ($653 million). And there is sure to be plenty of room for growth in the sector.

For the rich and famous, it isn’t just their own personal safety, but that of their families and properties. This is a whole “engineering system,” as Shi puts it.

Shi says the typical procedure when taking on a client is first to assess all the potential risks, then identify the level of danger and finally develop a specific strategy for protection. Teams of five to eight security personnel are typically dispatched. They include those specialized in anti-kidnapping, anti-tracking or target control, as well as those disguised as chauffeurs or secretaries to offer close minute-by-minute protection of the client.

Uneven Quality

Having studied martial arts since the age of 15, and having later worked for years as one of the “Zhongnanhai Guards Group” protecting China’s top leaders, as well as foreign visitors such as Bill Gates, Zhe Meijie is considered one of the top Chinese security specialists.

Zhe says that while more and more security companies are springing up, the industry lacks supervision and public regulations. “It’s a mixed bag,” he says. “We hope that the government will introduce appropriate policies to guide the industry’s development and that practitioners and managers in the sector get better training, as well as learn to cooperate to avoid vicious competition among themselves.”

As such a new industry, China’s bodyguard services are still groping in the dark. To improve standards and find quality recruits, security firms increasingly tap into the ranks of newly retiring police and soldiers. “Decommissioned special forces soldiers possess high military qualities and can adapt themselves fast to bodyguard work,” Shi says. “They are our first choice.”

Before being put into service, candidates must go through a sort of boot camp, including physical training, kickboxing, martial arts and anti-kidnapping training, as well as business protocol.

“If you can’t fight, you definitely can’t be a bodyguard,” Shi says. “But only knowing how to fight doesn’t make you a bodyguard either. What a bodyguard requires most is intelligence.”

Half the training is related to skills and theories such as driving special vehicles, information collection, legal knowledge, public relations, emergency care and social etiquette. Physical techniques represent 20 percent and fighting 30 percent, Shi estimates.

But above all, integrity is still the most important aspect of a profession that involves both danger and privacy. “We are still far from the standards of the profession in advanced countries like America since this is a business that is just starting in China,” says Shi. “We want to become China’s Blackwater, but it’s a tough road. We are learning how to do our job, and we realize that also includes educating the clients.”

Gender Imbalance Troubles China

2010-07-08 18:42 | The Economic Observer
With a severe gender imbalance among young Chinese, China is about to face a lot of problems.According to a Blue Paper on Society released by the China Academy of Social Science, because of the serious gender imbalance among Chinese under the age of 19, ten years later, tens of thousands of male Chinese of marriageable age will have difficulty finding a wife.It is not just the marriage market that will be influenced.In agricultural areas, unmarried young men over 25 years old are everywhere; in rural kindergartens and primary schools, the number of male students is obviously higher than that of females. In the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and southeast Fujian Province where the local economies are dominated by the manufacturing and service industry, because of the severe shortage of women aged between 18 and 25, clothing factories have no choice but to hire young men.

China has entered a society where the number of men far exceeds that of women.

“China’s high sex ratio has lasted for over 20 years, its accumulated effects are becoming obvious,” Yuan Xin, a professor with Nankai University’s population and development research institute, said.

The sex ratio at birth under normal circumstances, should be 103 to 107 male infants for every 100 female babies. Because the death ratio of baby boys is higher than that of girls, the number of boys and girls will be close to equal when they are reach the age of marriage.

But in China, the sex ratio has been increasing since the 1980s. In 1982 when China conducted its third national population census, the number of male births for every 100 females was 108.47; in 1990, it rose to 111; in 2000, it was 119 and in 2005, it jumped to 120.49, 13. The male population at that point was 13 percent higher than that of females.

“In a short period of over 20 years, the gender imbalance has expanded quickly from eastern provinces to western, from rural areas to urban cities. Now it has almost covered the whole country,” Yuan Xin said. In 1982, only 18 provinces had a relatively high sex ratio while in 2005, all provinces, except Tibet, had a high sex ratio and three provinces had a ratio exceeding 130.

The gender imbalance will not only produce a large number of single young men, but also will give rise to a series of social problems.

Based on statistics provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, with the size of the male population aged zero to 19 being 23 million more than that of the female population, in the next ten years, every year there will be 1.2 million more men reaching marriageable age than women, forcing the former to seek wives in less-developed regions or search for younger females. The final result will be that young men in poor areas will be edged out of the marriage market, which, according to Tian Xueyuan who is the deputy director of the China Population Association, will give rise to a black market of “wife selling” and thus threaten social stability.

In recent years, 36,000 women have been sold and sent to Zhejiang Province to marry local men, statistics from the local public security bureau show. Most of these women are from underdeveloped regions like Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Hubei.

In the mountainous area connecting Guangxi Province and Vietnam where the economy is poor, men are forced to marry brides who have illegally entered China from Vietnam.

“The narrowing of the marriage market has produced a large number of single men. What is worse, it is the impoverished who are bearing the consequences,” Tian Xueyuan said.

The gender imbalance will also give a heavy blow to the job market. A textile factory owner, Yuan Xin, who is doing business in Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai said, said the sex ratio in many textile factories has reached up to four to six males per one female; some factories have even closed due to a lack of female laborers. Yaun Xin said that excess of male laborers would intensify the competition in the job market and make it even more difficult for women to find jobs. Additionally, because of the shortage of females, in some sectors, men would have to take positions which formerly belonged to women, while in some other sectors, men would face more severe competition.

What has caused such an unbalanced sex ratio? The answer is multi-faceted.

One answer is the advanced technology which allows people to know the sex of fetuses when a woman is only four-months pregnant or even less. Male fetuses will kept alive while female fetuses will be aborted.

The technology, called type-B ultrasonic, though prohibited by Chinese laws to be used on pregnant women, is still available in some clinics in Chinese cities, towns and villages, especially in some villages surrounded by cities.

Those clinics, always disguised to be lawful outpatient hospitals or pharmaceutical stores, will inspect the sex of the fetus through a B-type ultrasonic ultrasound and if it is a female, they will ask a doctor, who works for a local hospital and wants to earn extra money, to perform an abortion.

But that is not the complete answer.

“The core of the problem lies in the traditional view which holds that men more important than women,” Tian Xueyuan said.

Though the Chinese government has made it clear that women are equal to men under law, many Chinese parents and families still consider men more important than women and boys better than girls because men are more capable of supporting families and will continue the family line.

According to Yang Juhua, a professor with Renmin University, the unequal social status between male and females is still obvious in Chinese society. Aside from education levels, women are still suffering from disadvantages in many fields. Their wages are still lower than that of men in same-level positions and they are more likely to be refused when competing for university acceptance or job vacancies with male peers with the same qualifications. Additionally, Chinese women play a much weaker role in state affairs than their foreign counterparts. Females only account for one fifth of the total officials in government, party organizations and public agencies,

Edited by Rose Scobie | Original Source People\’s Daily

 

Mythical World Ending

Mayan prophecies: Life after the (non) end of the world

By Jon Kelly BBC News Magazine, Washington DC | 21 December 2012 Last updated at 01:56 GMT

Man in gasmask holding "End of the world 2012" sign

Despite all the predictions of Mayan apocalypse, the world will probably not end by Saturday morning. How will the believers cope when life carries on?

The clock strikes midnight, the hallowed date arrives and, once again, the apocalypse fails to turn up on schedule.

For such a cataclysmic event, the projected end of the world has come around with surprising regularity throughout history.

Each time a group of believers has been left bewildered at the absence of all-consuming death and devastation.

If they’ve taking the warnings seriously enough, they will have sold their homes, abandoned earthly civilisation’s material trappings and braced themselves for the arrival of a new era.

The latest date to herald widespread alarm is 21 December, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar.

Around the world, precautions are being taken.

Panic-buying of candles has been reported in China’s Sichuan province. In Russia, where sales of tinned goods and matches have surged, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has urged his countryfolk to remain calm.

Authorities in the French Pyrenees are preparing for an influx of believers to the mountain Pic de Bugarach, where rumours have spread that UFOs will rescue human gatherers.

And one doesn’t have to belong to a sect to find these predictions compelling. Humankind’s ongoing fascination with the apocalypse is evident in mainstream popular culture.

Films like 2012, Armageddon and The Day After Tomorrow all packed out multiplexes by depicting threats of global catastrophe. The Left Behind novels about a “post-rapture” world have reportedly sold more than 70 million copies.

If precedent is any guide, however, 21 December is likely to prove an anti-climax. Since the dawn of civilisation, humans have often been gripped by certainty that the world was about to end.

The Romans panicked at predictions their city would be destroyed in 634 BC. Millennial fears gripped Europe ahead of the year 1000 AD. During the English Civil War, groups like the Fifth Monarchists believed the end was nigh.

More recent apocalypses have panned out in much the same way. Followers of Nostradamus braced themselves for the arrival of the “King of Terror” in “1999 and seven months”. US television evangelist Pat Robertson forecast that “something like” a nuclear attack would occur in late 2007.


End of days glitch?

Dr Geoffrey Braswell University of California, San Diego


The 2012 phenomenon is essentially an accounting problem; a misinterpretation of some very ancient book keeping.

It is based on the Maya calendar, which counts the days since a date in the mythical past. This count reset after the last creation (on or about 11 August, 3114BC). On 21 December, we will reach that same number of days once again, and many now are concerned that a calendrical reset the following day will mean the end of the world.

But it is not even clear that the Maya themselves agreed on this book-keeping issue. Two ancient inscriptions emphasise the importance of the date. But a third focuses on 13 October 4772, the end of an even bigger cycle that cannot happen if a reset occurs in 2012.

This more detailed text predicts that, at an even later date, the great king K’inich Janaab’ Pakal will return to Palenque to rule. If this Maya prophesy is true, then the world will not end in 2012 or even 4772, no matter how the ancient calendar functioned.


The California radio preacher Harold Camping set a date for the end of the world no fewer than six times, settling on 22 October 2011 – a day which, historians may recall, was distinguished by an absence of fire and brimstone.

For those who paid heed to their dire warnings, learning that life will in fact carry on as normal might be expected to be a deeply traumatic experience.

Surprisingly, however, groups which predict the end of the world have quite a good record of carrying on after the world is supposed to have ended, says Lorne Dawson, an expert in the sociology of religion at the University of Waterloo.

“The vast majority seem to shrug off the failure of prophecy fairly well,” he says.

Of 75 groups identified by Dawson which predicted the apocalypse, all but six remained intact after catastrophe failed to materialise.

Indeed, many have gone on to flourish. Jehovah’s Witnesses are viewed as having predicted some form of end several times and yet still have more than seven million followers.

The Seventh Day Adventists, who have an estimated 17 million members, grew out of the Millerites, whose failed apocalyptic forecast in 1844 became known as the Great Disappointment.

The seminal study into this phenomenon came in the 1956 text When Prophecy Fails, in which psychologist Leon Festinger recounted how he and his students infiltrated a group who believed the world was about to end with members being rescued by a flying saucer.

When both the apocalypse and the UFO failed to materialise, Festinger found, the leader declared that the small circle of believers had “spread so much light” that God had spared the planet. Her followers responded by proselytising the good news among non-believers in what Festinger saw as a classic case of cognitive dissonance.

In a similar exercise, psychiatrist Simon Dein spent time with a small community of Lubavitch Hassidic Jews in Stamford Hill, north London. For years many Lubavitchers had believed their spiritual leader Menechem Mendel Schneerson, known as the rebbe, was the messiah.

According to their theology, he would herald the end of civilisation and usher in a new age. Their faith was tested, however, when the rebbe passed away in New York in 1994.

“I was there at the time he died,” says Dein. “They were crying. They were mourning. There was a great sense of denial – he couldn’t die. Would he reveal himself?”

But, Dein says, these Lubavitchers did not give up their belief system. Very quickly, they took up the idea he was still alive and could not be seen, or that he would somehow rise from the dead.

“There are very heated tensions between those who believe he’s alive and those who believe he’s dead, but his death doesn’t seem to have diminished the number of people in the group,” Dein says.


The Great Disappointment


  • William Miller, a Baptist preacher in the US, believed Jesus would return to Earth in 1844
  • He drew on prophecies in the Book of Daniel (especially chapter 8:14 “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”)
  • Tens of thousands of followers waited in vain on 22 October 1844 – some having given away their money and possessions
  • “It was a bitter disappointment that fell upon the little flock whose faith had been so strong and whose hope had been so high,” wrote follower Ellen West, “but we were surprised that we felt so free in the Lord, and were so strongly sustained by His strength and grace”

According to Dawson, the 200 Lubavitcher families in Stamford Hill had the most crucial trait necessary to keep a group together after a failed apocalypse – a strong sense of community.

“If the group itself has been pretty cohesive, it’s been free of schism and dissent, they can get through,” he says.


When apocalypse fails to arrive


“In 1988 there was a really big apocalyptic scenario. I was 14 and in my freshman year at high school in Amarillo, Texas,” says Jason Boylett, author of Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.

“A former Nasa scientist and mathematician called Edgar Whisenant had predicted the world was going to end in September based on calculations from the Bible. He sent his pamphlets out to hundreds of thousands of churches. My Southern Baptist pastor talked about it from the pulpit.

“I spent that summer really pretty scared, because people who had authority our our lives said this is something that might happen in September. I was afraid this was going to be my last summer. When the dates came round I went to bed thinking this is going to be the last time I see my parents.

“Afterwards, obviously, I was relieved. But it really disillusioned me. I knew then I couldn’t always trust my pastor.

“I’m still a practicing Christian and I’m not walking around psychologically wounded. But since then my religious belief has been marked with a lot of questioning, a lot of doubt and a lot of cynicism.”


Also important, he believes, is the presence of a decisive leadership who can offer a swift explanation.

“If rationalisation comes quickly, the group can withstand ridicule from outside,” he adds.

Some leaders, such as Camping on several occasions, simply offer a new date for the apocalypse. Others apologise to their members for getting the scheduling wrong.

Tragically, some take more drastic action. The bodies of 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult were found in 1997. They had taken their own lives in the belief they would reach a UFO following the Hale-Bopp comet.

Most, however, find a peaceful way to adjust.

“When you have invested so much in a belief, you have a very strong interest in salvaging something from it,” says Philip Jenkins, a historian of religion at Baylor University in Texas.

For Jenkins, the appeal of leaders preaching the impending apocalypse down the ages has always been about far more than the specifics of their prophecies.

“It’s a kind of rejection of the order of the world as it is,” he says. “It’s to do with imagining something far better. After it becomes apparent that the new order isn’t going to come, there are ways of adjusting the message.”

For true believers, the saga is only just beginning when the clock hands reach 12.

UK Economy : Post London Olympics 2012

Instant View: BoE sees flat economy in near-term – minutes

LONDON |         Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:50am GMT

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy is likely to remain broadly flat in the near term but inflation would probably exceed 2 percent in the next year or so, minutes to the Bank of England’s December 5-6 meeting showed on Wednesday.

Following are analysts’ reactions to the minutes.

ROB WOOD, BERENBERG BANK

“I don’t think anything stands out. It’s a picture of a committee on hold for the time being. There seems to be no big change of views- David Miles voting for more QE, the others holding off.

“The big news is that inflation is above target and likely to stay there. Weak productivity is spooking the committee.

“But these minutes really are more of the same. You have eight members who really don’t think much has changed on the month, weak productivity is stopping them from doing more.

“Our view is that as we head into next year, weak growth is likely going to force a change, (at the moment) they are putting a lot of faith in the Funding for Lending Scheme.”

ROSS WALKER, RBS

“There was a little line near the front talking about the substantial risks to the inflation forecasts – they were all on the upside.

“To me it feels like it’s reinforcing a neutral policy stance. Sluggish growth, overshooting inflation makes it difficult to do anything with policy.

“It’s very hard to see anything before February and more likely before May.

“It’s not as if they’re not doing anything – there is that outstanding stock of gilt purchases and the FLS anecdotally seems to be working on some front.

“It’s going to take time. Barring any big shocks, it feels like we’re probably not going to get, for example, further QE in the first half of next year. But I don’t think you can rule these things out categorically. We’ve seen external shocks blowing everything off course.”

JAMES KNIGHTLEY, ING

“With the Funding for Lending Scheme showing tentative signs of supporting lending there seems to be little appetite for more stimulus at the moment.

“However, should the United States topple off the fiscal cliff and if the Euro zone situation deteriorates the Bank of England will probably have to act again.”

NEVILLE HILL, CREDIT SUISSE

“It doesn’t look as if there is any imminent change in balance or mood on the committee, so very much on hold.

“Perhaps the only interesting point is that they seem unhappy with the level of currency at the moment, saying that the lack of competitiveness in the last couple of years was a headwind to UK exporters.

“The main thing for next year is whether there is a change in tone from the new governor.”

BRIAN HILLIARD, SOCIETE GENERALE

“Nothing very exciting this time – but we didn’t expect it to be. Miles is looking for more stimulus – so he has been consistent.

“Much of the weakness in exports come from services. They are becoming a little more downbeat that net exports will boost growth.

“There is a little bit of a question mark over the strength of consumption – the Q3 bounce in GDP from the Olympics was less than they would have expected.”

PHILIP SHAW, INVESTEC

“Very much as expected. The discussions suggest that developments over the month hadn’t really changed the balance of the monetary policy debate and it will probably take another two months of data potentially to shift arguments one way or the other.

“We take the views that last week’s construction data reduced the risk of a contraction of GDP over Q4 and so it’s possible that the committee’s commentary over the economy from early next year becomes a little less downbeat.

“Finally, our central view is that the MPC will refrain from sanctioning any further QE over 2012 but clearly that’s subject to economic developments.”

MELANIE BOWLER, MOODY’S ANALYTICS

“Weakening price pressures will allow monetary policy to remain expansionary.

“The use of further unconventional monetary policy tools is also possible, especially should the economy fail to grow as anticipated, or if it is subject to a shock.

“While questions have arisen over the effectiveness of the bank’s quantitative easing policy, further asset purchases have not been ruled out.

“And although the bank’s funding for lending scheme has yet to translate into stronger lending to the private sector, the bank’s latest quarterly bulletin…notes that there are tentative signs that the policy, which is set to run until the end of 2013, is starting to have (an) effect.”

(Reporting by London newsroom)