Brisk business for China's female bodyguards

Martin Patience meets some of China's newest female bodyguards in training

With her smart black business suit and her high heels, Chen Hai Rong could pass as an ordinary office worker.

But as she stepped out of the car, her ramrod posture and black earpiece suggested something was amiss.

She surveyed the car park with an eagle-eyed intensity.

A wealthy client climbed out of the vehicle and Ms Chen, along with another female colleague, briskly escorted the businesswoman into a nearby building.

"There are times when women are stronger and better than men," says Ms Chen.

The 21-year-old is one of the growing number of females choosing to join the macho world of bodyguarding.

It is estimated that there are 3,000 loosely regulated bodyguard companies competing to provide personal security.

'Having a sister'
Generation Asia graphic

Among China's burgeoning wealthy elite, women make up a third of the country's millionaires.

With resentment building over the widening gap between rich and poor, many of these women are now seeking personal protection.

Successful entrepreneur Wen Cui founded Guodun, a personal security business, to cater to this market.

She branched out from the more sedate world of running a chain of kindergartens.

Her idea for female personal protection arose from brutal experience. She was mugged twice while on business trips.

"Having a female bodyguard is a bit like having a sister," she explains. "They can watch out for you."

Wen Cui says she has received a fresh order to train 30 female bodyguards.

Start Quote

I used to watch a lot of action movies when I was a young - I wanted to be like them”

End Quote Xie Xingjiang Bodyguard

She says that female clients prefer women to their often burly male counterparts as they draw less attention - and scandal.

"If you've got a female bodyguard then you share a room," she says.

"People will think that she's your secretary. But if it's a man, well, then people might get the wrong impression."

Overall, Ms Wen's company is training 60 recruits. They are put through their paces by former soldiers at a training camp located on a military base.

During the six-month course the women - nearly all graduates - learn a whole range of skills including kung fu, surveillance and first-aid. They even receive etiquette classes so they can behave appropriately around their clients.

A rewarding career?

Xie Xingjiang, 19, is among the latest recruits having swapped figures for fists.

She trained as an accountant but always wanted to be a bodyguard. Despite pressure from her parents to get an office job, Ms Xie is now fulfilling her dream.

Wen Cui Wen Cui spotted a successful business opportunity amid growing demand for female security

"I used to watch a lot of action movies when I was a young," she says. "I wanted to be like them."

For those who make the cut, there is money to be made.

The firm charges about $300 (£188) a day per female bodyguard (the employees can earn $100 per day.)

A gold-plated package, including six bodyguards and two vehicles, can cost as much as $3,000 a day.

Gan Dongxia, a wealthy investor, often uses the service. She says she feels safer with personal protection.

"Some of my friends have been involved in disputes and they've been kidnapped," she says. "It can be dangerous here. So when my business grew, I felt I needed to be protected by bodyguards."

"It's also good to have them around as people show you more respect," she adds.

China may be a country that is growing richer every year. But anger is building amongst those missing out.

With the wealthy elite increasingly on guard, business will continue to be brisk for China's female bodyguards.

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