Internet, Legal News

Mapping China Crime Is Democracy In Action

China crime

When clients ask me whether they need to worry about crime in China, I typically say it is hard to know because China’s crime statistics are so unreliable. I then talk about “my sense” of things, based on my own experiences (so far, so good) and that of the people I know who are doing business in China (both Chinese and foreign) who talk mostly about petty crimes like pickpocketing.

Danwei just did a post, entitled, Thief maps let netizens fight crime, [link no longer exists] on the growing phenomenon in China of citizens mapping out crime locations on the Internet using “thief maps.” These maps are set up so users can contribute their individual run-ins with thieves and those incidents get mapped.

Danwei sees this online cooperation as “reminiscent of China’s “smart mob” phenomenon by serving as “platforms for organizing offline social action.” Danwei describes the authorities’ reaction to these maps as “cautious but supportive:”

According to an official statement from Nanjing’s public security bureau, “Public security, while working to combat crime, also supports the struggle of the masses against criminals. However, when citizens take up this struggle, they should conduct themselves according to the law.”


These maps are democracy in action, bordering on the subversive. Such maps would be no big deal in the United States or in England, but they have to be viewed very differently in China. These maps implicitly (explicitly?) proclaim that “we the people” cannot rely on the government to protect us and we need to take our own action. These maps provide information governments typically control and information is power.

The iron rice bowl is no more.

3 responses to “Mapping China Crime Is Democracy In Action”

  1. Dan,
    Your comments are always astute; I enjoy reading and thinking about them.
    It is indeed curious whenever officialdom cedes power to other private agencies, implicitly admitting that if there is any tiresome responsibility unattended, the slack, so to speak, is taken up and it shall be semi-officially endorsed.
    But I wonder whether, in this case, it’s less a disgruntled citizenry venting their concerns about living, than one more planned privatization ploy, getting the lesers to do what the betters can’t be bothered to do.

  2. Mr. Schackne —
    Thanks for checking in and thanks for the compliments. Always appreciated.
    Interesting thought. I certainly agree that the Chinese government is intentionally privatizing, but I find it hard to believe they plan to privatize crime enforcement. But, you may be on to something. But at the same time, their actions on this may be deliberate at least to the extent of encouraging increased citizenry responsiblity. Who knows?

  3. Crime In China. Say What?
    As regular readers know, I am fascinated by statistics. As regular followers of China know, reliable statistics on China are frequently hard to come by, and that is particularly true when it comes to crime. Now, the People’s Daily, in an article, entit…

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