Beijing safer than most U.S. places — apparently

A common question I get asked by friends and family back home is, “How safe do you feel in China?”

Compared to the U.S., I feel very safe. I can walk down just about any alley in Beijing at 4 a.m. without the fear of being mugged. China prohibits gun ownership by ordinary citizens, and even small weapons are hard to find.

For example, a few months ago, I went to a French sporting goods outlet to buy hiking gear for a trip to southwestern China’s Yunnan province. I asked a sales clerk whether they carried pocket knives, and she gave me a strange look. Continue reading

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Boston bombings bring fear back to the forefront

The last time I flew to Beijing from the U.S., I had to pass through a full-body scanner at an airport security checkpoint in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the people in front of me was an elderly man in a wheelchair.

When his turn came, two security officers helped him to his feet and guided him into the machine. “Can you stand on your own?” one of the officers asked.

“I think so,” the man said.

He kept his arms raised long enough for the machine to take an image of his body and then, with the help of the security officers, returned to his wheelchair. Continue reading