A secure status symbol

China's new economic elite has created a $1.2-billion security industry

A secure status symbol

China Photos/Getty Images

There are some 960,000 millionaires in China, and they have a few favourite ways to display their wealth: Cartier jewelery, Louis Vuitton watches, Giorgio Armani fashions and Bentley automobiles. Now there’s a new status symbol for the richest in the People’s Republic: the private bodyguard. In April, the Public Security Ministry announced it has sanctioned the first bodyguard agency in Zhengzhou, after lifting a ban on security companies who provide such services last year. This legislation was a response to a booming industry that has grown with China’s economic emergence on the global stage, but has operated in a legal grey area until recently. By the end of 2010, the industry was worth an estimated $1.2 billion, and there were more than 3,000 unregulated bodyguard companies. Top-tier guards often work as drivers or caregivers, hold doors open, and dress well. They are mostly female (less imposing that way), and armed with martial arts skills (citizens can’t carry firearms). The price tag? As high as $45,000 per year.

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