At the “Genghis Security Academy,” which bills itself as China’s only dedicated bodyguard school, students learn that the threats to the country’s newly rich in the tech age are more likely to emerge from a hacker than a gunman.
Each day students in matching black business suits toil from dawn until midnight at the school in the eastern city of Tianjin, where digital defenses are given equal pegging to the traditional close-protection skill set of combat, weapons training and high-speed driving.
About 1,000 graduate each year, hoping to land jobs as guards to China’s burgeoning ranks of rich and famous, positions which can be worth up to US$70,000 — several times more than an annual office wage.
However, the school has said that it cannot meet demand as China’s rapid growth mints millionaires — 4.4 million according to a Credit Suisse report last year, more than in the US.
The course fees are up to US$3,000 a student; and while they had to cancel training between February and June because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not dampened demand.
Only the best make the cut, founder Chen Yongqing (陳永青) said, adding that his disciplinarian standards are stricter than in the army.
“I’m quick-tempered and very demanding,” the army veteran from China’s northern Inner Mongolia region told reporters.
“Only by being strict can we cultivate every good sword. If you don’t forge it well, it will break itself,” he said.
About half of the students are ex-military, Chen said.
They train in rows in a large, shabby sports hall, holding blue plastic guns ahead of them with a steady stare — before practicing hustling their clients safely into a black Audi with smashed windows.
Other sessions are held in a classroom or gym, where they box in matching red T-shirts.
Mobile phones are confiscated throughout, while meals are taken in silence in a large dining hall presided over by pictures of acclaimed graduates, who have protected everyone from China’s second-richest man, Jack Ma (馬雲), to visiting French presidents.
“We have been defining the standard of Chinese bodyguards,” instructor Ji Pengfei told reporters.
In one class, students in pairs worked through a scenario protecting a client from an intruder.
“Danger!” shouted Ji, prompting the guard to quickly throw their “boss” behind them and pull out a gun in the same move.
Those who failed to do it in two seconds were assigned 50 push-ups.
The guns at the Tianjin school are fake — China outlaws possession of firearms. For live firearms training, students are taken to Laos.
However, in a highly surveilled country with a low rate of street crime, the modern minder needs an up-to-date skill set, against state monitoring or professional hackers.
“Chinese bosses don’t need you to fight,” Chen told his students of a client base, which includes the country’s biggest real-estate and tech firms.
Repelling hacks on mobile phones, network security, spotting eavesdroppers and wiping data are all required tools in the bodyguard’s armory.
“What would you do if the boss wants to destroy a video file immediately?” Chen asked a class.
Even so, old-school threats still exist in China — earlier this year billionaire He Xiangjian (何享健), founder of Midea and one of the country’s richest men, was kidnapped at his home.
According to Chinese media, He’s son escaped by jumping into a river and was able to call the police, who said they arrested five suspects at the scene.
Student Zhu Peipei, a 33-year-old army veteran from northern Shanxi Province, hoped that becoming a bodyguard could offset his lack of professional skills or academic qualifications.
“And of course, it’s cool,” he added.
However, the alumni of the Genghis Academy also provide humdrum services, like accompanying children of the rich and famous to school — for a fee of 180,000 yuan (US$26,592) a year.
That in itself is far more than the base salary in private companies of about 53,000 yuan.
Students must also navigate the quirks of their wealthy clients, Ji said.
Some only trust bodyguards whose Chinese zodiac sign matches theirs, he said — while one, from a Fortune 500 company, only wanted to hire from his hometown.
Another demanded a prospective bodyguard tell him what books he liked to read — he was hired after saying he liked military novels.
The best can command as much as 500,000 yuan a year inside China, but some set their sights on a posting overseas, potentially working with foreign clients.
“I want to work in the Philippines or Myanmar,” one student said, requesting anonymity. “Then I can carry a gun ... it will be more challenging and I can earn more.”
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory