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The Private/Public Security Nexus in China

This article explores the relationship between private and public security in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The system of private security provision is run by China’s public security bureaus in county, city, and provincial jurisdictions. Private security in China, which began a contemporary life in the mid-1980s, has developed in parallel with an economic trajectory that reflects what Michael Dutton calls “the commodification of security,” increasingly characterized by a contractual relationship between police and government. Public and private security enjoy a complex but congenial relationship. The establishment and running of private security firms comes under the direct auspices of the public security forces, financially and organizationally. Put simply, private security firms are the handmaiden of public security agencies. This relationship characterizes private security as a parapolicing force that is expected, like its public security counterpart, to play a part in protecting public order. However, this situation is about to change with WTO requirements that China open its security market to foreign ownership.

private security, public security, Chinese policing, China, security guards

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 34, Nos. 3-4 (2007): 38-55