Official statistics would certainly suggest that crime in China is extremely low. Murder rates in China are roughly one-fifth as high as in the United States. According to the official crime statistics there, all crimes are rare. China certainly feels safe. We walked the streets in rich areas and poor and not for a moment did I ever feel threatened. Graffiti was completely absent. The one instance where I thought I finally found some graffiti near a train station in the city of Shangrao, the spray painted message on a bridge turned out not to be graffiti, but rather a government warning that anyone caught defecating under the bridge would be severely punished.
Yet, there were all sorts of odd behaviors that made it seem like some crimes were a big problem.
First, there seemed to be an obsession with the risk of counterfeit money. Our tour guides felt the need to teach us how to identify fake money. Whenever I bought something with currency, the shopkeeper went through a variety of tricks to validate the legitimacy of the bills.
Second, when checking out of some of our hotels, there was a fifteen minute delay while a hotel worker went to check out the vacated hotel room, I presume to check for stolen clocks, towels, and mini-bar items. (Possibly I misunderstood why they checked the room, just as I struggled to understand why there was a $15 fee associated with each lost key card, which couldn’t possibly have cost the hotel more than a few cents. On the key cards, it almost seemed like they didn’t have the device on hand that regular hotels use to program key cards in real-time as a new guest checks in, although this seems impossible.)
Third, places that no sensible person would ever want to break into (for instance, orphanages) were protected by guard houses and metal gates that had to be retracted to let vehicles in. And I don’t think the gates were to keep the orphans in, but maybe they were!
Fourth, on the trains we took, they checked our tickets before we boarded, while we were riding the train, and also required that the ticket be produced on the way out of the station.
Finally, and most notably, public restrooms were completely devoid of toilet paper, even in some reasonably nice restaurants. Again, maybe I’m completely missing something, but the impression was that (a) toilet paper was a very valuable commodity, and (b) if it were left in public restrooms it would be stolen.