China Business

China Crime by the Numbers

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As our regular readers probably know, I am fascinated by statistics. I am therefore constantly frustrated because reliable statistics on China often are hard to come by, and that is particularly true when it comes to crime.

The People’s Daily, in an article, China’s violent crimes rise for the 1st time in a decade, [link no longer exists] has come out with an article flogging the rise in violent crimes in China, but without really giving any good solid clues/numbers as to what is really going on and where:

Crime rates increased amid the global economic crisis, as did the unemployment rate. According to the 2010 Rule of Law Blue Book released by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) February 25, China’s crime cases in 2009 breached the stable situation dating back to 2000 and increased substantially, among which, violent crimes and property crimes witnessed sharp jumps.

As the blue book shows, the number of China’s criminal and civil cases increased by a large margin from January to October 2009, and reached 5.3 million and 9.9 million respectively by the end of 2009, with the former’s growth rate up over 10 percent and latter’s up around 20 percent.

The article goes on to say the following:

The deteriorating economy has made criminals much more violent. According to the blue book, violent crimes such as homicide, rape, and robbery saw sizable growth in 2009, the first increase of such cases since 2001. China’s violent crimes had been declining evidently for about a decade prior to 2009.

In terms of intentional murder cases, vicious murders among family members and those committed in vengeance against society, or simply those by mental patients accounted for a large portion. Incitements to murders also surfaced from time to time. Furthermore, gangs were prevalent in some places, and some criminals killed the intellectually-challenged and faked their deaths in mine disasters so that they may blackmail for money.

The article notes that 2010 will likely be no better as “China still faces a severe social situation in 2010, having “not yet completely recovered from the international financial crisis.”

Is this a back-handed way of letting people know that China is expecting major economic problems in 2010? I have a strange sense this article may be very important, though I find it very strange. What is going on here?

For more on crime in China, check out Mapping China Crime Is Democracy In Action.

17 responses to “China Crime by the Numbers”

  1. Not everything that you read in the Chinese press “means” something. One quick way of checking is to see if you see the same type of story in other newspapers. If you see an article in People’s Daily and nowhere else, then it was probably written by someone at the People’s Daily.
    If you see the same type of article in all of the major Chinese newspapers, then it’s likely that the newspapers have received administrative guidance from the Central Propaganda Department. There’s also something interesting happening if there is an article that is being covered very actively elsewhere in the world that’s missing in the major Chinese newspapers.
    One other thing is that the English and the Chinese versions of newspapers often differ very significantly from each other.

  2. If you want to institute a major crackdown and curtail some liberties, you first need to scare everyone and then say you are doing it for the good of the people.
    Maybe that is it.
    Crime goes up and down, always. When you release and trumpet a scary report, it serves a purpose, especially if you aren’t generally in the free flow of data biz, which China isn’t and hasn’t been. I remember when drugs and drug crimes were getting so bad in Shanghai that they started doing lurid PSAs on the subway video screens, but even then there was nothing like that in the newspaper.
    The mine disaster part was particularly dubious, but whatever. All the news that’s fit to print, right?

  3. “…and some criminals killed the intellectually-challenged and faked their deaths in mine disasters so that they may blackmail for money.”
    Can someone explain this? Do they mean that the criminals were able to collect death benefits from the employer? Do China’s mines employ the intellectually challenged, or is this one of the costs of un-fenced construction areas?

  4. A complex issue that has had significant coverage across the Chinese press over the past week.
    With China’s statistics in such a sorry state it is difficult to judge whether this reflects a genuine rise in violent crime or better reporting of crime showing through.
    I did some work with a senior Traffic Police Officer last year and he indicated that only 1/3 of fatal traffic accident deaths in his remit area were being reported upwards for statistical purposes. He indicated this practice was common in every region of China. Local police are measured on this hence their reluctance to report.
    If the same applies to violent crime, local police will need to balance pressure from the Statistical Office to report more accurately, with heavier pressure from their own superiors to manage and massage the numbers. A very sad state of play.
    At a street level, I have no greater sense of crime or threat. China remains extremely safe.

  5. Given the general incompetence and corruption of the local police, I’m not entirely surprised. I read somewhere a while ago that Chinese police generally are not well trained to actually do real investigative work nor do they have a lot of resources with which to do so, causing them instead to rely on brutal and barbaric systems such as beating confessions out of people.

  6. I don’t know if there really has been a rise in violent crime in China, but I have noticed a rise in the number of violent crimes reported in the newspapers over the last four years. When I first arrived in China, it was rare to see crimes reported. Now it’s fairly common.

  7. Zack, a worthwhile movie to watch: Mang jing = Blind shaft / produced and directed by Li Yang ; screenplay by Li Yang. It is a tale of two itinerant mine workers who seek out rubes to kill while working in coal mines for financial gain. An eye-opening and disturbing movie.

  8. The mine disaster comment does seem to have been reflecting Mang Jing. As with many countries, the wider public has a sense that crime is rising whether or not the official statistics agree. With people increasingly living in areas where the police don’t know them and they don’t know their neighbours you would expect crime to be rising generally in China. Growing social divides and the sense of dislocation generated by rapid social and economic change are also not likely to be positive trends for crime if global trends are any guide.

  9. Twofish,
    I agree with all that you say, but at the same time, I find it very difficult to believe that a “highly charged” article like this, even though in English, wasn’t at least strongly encouraged by the powers that be.

  10. anon this time,
    I absolutely agree with you in thinking that an article like this came out for a reason and your reason does have its logic, though I hope you are wrong.

  11. Zack,
    I am always bragging about how I am fluent in Kanglish, Chinglish, and Japenish and that I can decipher emails written in those “languages” that nobody else can, but my government Chinglish is not perfect and much of this article left me clueless. Sorry.

  12. Chris,
    I assume what you say is at least somewhat true, but that does not really answer whether there has been an increase in crime in the last few years and it also does not tell us why an article like this is coming out now.

  13. outcast,
    But again, that does not explain whether there has been a recent increase in crime nor why an article like this is coming out now.

  14. Duncan,
    Good points. But why do you think this article came out now? Mere recognition of what the people are thinking/feeling?

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