China's private security industry is booming, with the ministry of public security indicating there are 2,767 registered companies in the sector and employing more than 2 million security workers. Thousands of guards are migrant workers on modest wages employed to patrol outside schools and commercial buildings, China's nouveau riche are also hiring larger numbers of bodyguards. Those employed as guards outnumber the country's police officers by about four to one
"Ten years ago, private security didn't exist. Now it's pretty massive. The growth has been pretty stunning," says Rod Broadhurst, a professor at the school of regulation, justice and diplomacy in the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific, and a former chairman of the Hong Kong Criminology Society.
Typical of the security companies is China City Guard Security. Xiao Peng, the company founder and president, says demand for services in some areas is increasing by as much as 200 per cent a year. "The market is very huge in China. Every enterprise now needs security services," says Mr Xiao,
Crime rates might still be low in China compared with some developed nations, but experts tend to agree - even if reliable data are not always available - that they have risen significantly. "The growth [in private security] is … associated with concerns about the growth of common crime, particularly crime against business. As urban areas have grown, the floating population has grown. There's been a lot of theft," says Prof Broadhurst.
Major inequalities among China's working population are said to be one reason for the growth of crime.