One thing to get used to in China is the number of guards everywhere. It can sometimes feel like you’re in the type of apocalyptic urban future that’s pictured in movies.
Typically, every housing complex or apartment building has several guards standing around it. There’s at least one at every entrance and one or more walking around. Their job seems to be asking every unfamiliar person their business. The funny part is that you just have to say where you’re going and they let you through. “I’ve been invited to building 20, apartment 501.” There’s not even a verification step.
But they really are everywhere. When I showed up the first day at work, I had to answer to two separate guards in different parts of the building. Getting into our apartment complex requires talking to at least one guard.
Sometimes, the guards are just posted at traffic intersections. Not traffic directors — guards. I was once in the middle of nowhere, way outside the city, literally in the middle of farm fields, when I walked up to a guard that was posted at an intersection between two tiny roads. Good thing I ran into him, though. I was completely lost. He called a cab for me. But other than me showing up, his job was just to stand there all day monitoring the “traffic.”
It seems that many of the guards aren’t government employees, though I can’t be positive just yet. For instance, many housing complexes are guarded by folks from Collier International, the commercial real-estate company. My guess is that most guards are private (rent-a-cop) guards, though the uniforms certainly look official.
The exception is near government buildings, where armed guards in green uniforms abound. They look pretty official. Especially with their shotguns.
Most guards don’t appear to be armed except for the green uniformed ones. I’d take pictures and post them here if I didn’t think that’d land me in a world of trouble. So for now, you’ll just have to imagine rent-a-cops everywhere.