Mapping China Crime Is Democracy In Action

Mapping China crime is difficult. 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.

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Internet, Legal News