“Do you own a gun?”
“Is the U.S. safe?”
As a foreigner living in China, I often receive these types of questions. As we all know, stories of people helping other people don’t make the headlines but mass murders do. The fact that the U.S. and some European countries can bear arms surprises many people in China. They think everybody is walking around with a gun. I often have to dispel this myth (and yes, it is a myth, keep reading and I will show you the numbers).
So, is China safe?
Anecdotally speaking, absolutely! In my ten years living in China, I have never felt threatened in any neighborhood, at any time. If you don’t trust my opinion, let’s look at some numbers from a 2014 report by the United Nations. Of the 218 countries in the world (including independent territories), in terms of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, China ranks 192. That means, there are only 26 countries safer than China, included tiny countries (e.g. Monaco is number 218). How about the U.S.? Like I said above, it is relatively safe, albeit, not as safe as China. The U.S. is number 107. All things considered, that is pretty good. The U.S. usually gets a bad rap for being a dangerous country since its citizens can own guns.
China is safe for numerous reasons. Most importantly, crime is taken very seriously. For example, murderers and drug traffickers often receive the death penalty. And, yes, marijuana is considered a drug in China. It is often grouped with heroine and cocaine. There is a persistent drug problem near the Myanmar, Thai, Laos border, but drugs are not that prevalent throughout most of China. Hell, the idea of being executed for selling drugs is a pretty good incentive to “just say no.”
Of course, like all countries, there is crime. While living in China, one must watch their pockets and backpacks. There are a good number of pickpockets and petty thefts. For those who live on the first four or five floors of an apartment complex, it is a good idea to have metal bars on the windows. If the first floor has bars on the window but the second floor does not, a thief could use those bars to reach the next floor. Trust me, I know. I lived on the fifth floor of a building; one night, a thief scaled the building (using the metal bars) and robbed my apartment while I was sleeping. I didn’t notice anything until the next day when I woke up.
Terrorism has a different meaning in China as well. In Xinjiang, the Uyghur ethnic group has partook in numerous attacks in cities like Beijing and Kunming. This group is ethnically muslim, but they want to separate from mainland China to have there own country. Therefore, it is not exactly Islamic terrorism that is plaguing parts of the western world. The Chinese government doesn’t mess around with terrorism. Airports, train stations, and other public areas are often surveyed by soldiers. In Xinjiang, the local mosques often have soldiers or police officers near the entrances. Uyghur men are not allowed to wear long beards, and women are not allowed to wear burkas. Ironically, the Hui ethnic group (which is also muslim) are given more freedom.
Welcome to China! As long as you don’t bring your gun or drugs, you will be safe as can be.
U.S.A. Měiguó 美国
China Zhōngguó 中国
Monaco Mónàgē 摩纳哥
Is China safe? Zhōngguó hěn ānquán ma? 中国很安全吗？
Do you have a gun? Nǐ yǒu qiāng ma? 你有枪吗？
Crime Fànzuì 犯罪
Pickpocket Tiāo kǒudài 调口袋
Steal Tōu 偷
Thief Xiǎotōu 小偷
Uyghur Wéiwú’ěr 维吾尔
Minority group Shǎoshù mínzú 少数民族