How safe is China compared to a Democratic Country?

Jerry Grey
5 min readJun 19, 2023

Wherever we are, our government provides security, it provides a police service to protect us and other resources such as limited or controlled access, safety buttons to call the police, it might be street lights so we can see threats or, it might be what most governments are now doing and that is installing Closed Circuit Television, CCTV.

Like it or loathe it, it’s ubiquitous, there’s nothing we can do about it so we’d better get used to it. But we’ll come back to that in a moment because there is something even more worrying happening

The UK is described as a democratic country but new laws have been introduced to give police over-arching powers to prevent disruptive protests. These are not being introduced in a democratic way, they are being introduced after the democratic process has already rejected them. It gets even more worrying when we consider that, just before the Coronation of King Charles, the police arrested 52 people who hadn’t done anything wrong… yet.

In other words, they were arrested because the police thought they might do something wrong and their human rights were considered to be less valuable than their right to protest in that democracy.

Australia has introduced similar laws, South Australia recently enacted new laws with just 22 minutes of debate in their parliament and introduced sweeping powers for police and massive new punishments for protesters. Queensland did the same thing in 2019, New South Wales in 2022 just a few weeks after Victoria passed their new laws, all with harsher penalties and more police powers.

There’s a good reason why these laws have become necessary. And that is because the democratic process isn’t working. This can be traced back to the 2003 protests against the Iraq War. More than 10 million people marched that day in several major cities all around the world and they were ignored.

The democratic world realised that peaceful protests no longer serve a purpose; so the protests escalated into disruptive or violent protests just to get attention.

When people’s voices are not heard, democracy has failed.

Let’s come back to the CCTV issues. Living in China there are cameras everywhere, there is no privacy, my facial features have been recorded and my phone can track me wherever I go; it knows how much money I spend, where I spend it and what I spend it on and, do you know what?

I feel safe, I have no problems with this. I know that I can walk home in the middle of the night and be safe, I’m not being watched or monitored, I’m being protected. I know that my phone won’t be stolen because no one else can use it. My ATM cards won’t work, even if they have the PIN number because the facial recognition won’t match the card; and, for me, all this is good.

However, a friend of mine, Gordon Styles, brought to my attention recently a BBC report that said China is going to add extra controls to Airdrop and Bluetooth to prevent unauthorised file sharing. BBC thought this was terrible but it’s not a problem for me or any of the people I know here. It is, according to the BBC, a big problem for activists though.

China has laws to prevent disharmony in society; they are quite strong but they are well known. They make no secret of it. The right to protest, even the right to organise protests is constitutionally guaranteed but the right to disrupt society is not.

The right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of speech is guaranteed too, but the right to abuse or insult people is not, neither is the right to harass or threaten people.

I can exchange any file I want with any of my friends or colleagues. If I want to send them pornography or anything seditious or extremist, I can do that but I’m breaking the law and, if I do, and get caught, I’ll face the consequences.

They aren’t monitoring me in real time, that would be too difficult but if they want to investigate my activities they can because all those transactions are recorded. And, with appropriate court documentation they can monitor me in real time. I just don’t give them a reason to but let’s be honest, no country is different.

The difference between China and the UK or China and Australia is simple: I absolutely know where I stand, I know what I can do and I know the consequences if I don’t abide by the laws.

But there’s a bigger difference. Many people in the west think I’m crazy when I say this but, in China, the government knows everything about me and it makes me feel comfortable. In the UK, when the government knows too much about me, I feel uncomfortable. It’s all about trust.

If you think your government, wherever you are doesn’t have all the same information, I’ve got news for you, they do. So, if all governments are already collecting all that data what’s the difference, as I said, it’s all about trust.

In Canada, protestors had their bank accounts, Bitcoin and GoFundMe accounts frozen. If I break the law in China, China might freeze my account, I know that. But if I protest in Canada, a democracy which allows for freedom of speech and peaceful protests, they’ve proven that they WILL freeze my account

I currently live in the most stable, secure and safe place I’ve ever lived in. I know the government has access to an enormous amount of my personal data, they probably even have my DNA but and here’s what makes Westerners, because they’ve heard so many tales of Chinese authoritarianism, so incredulous, it doesn’t matter to me.

It doesn’t matter to most of the 1.4 billion people who live here, it doesn’t matter to me and it shouldn’t matter to you if you come here, that’s the difference.

Break the law in any country and you will suffer the consequences, the difference here is that you only suffer if you break the law — it appears in many so-called democracies, you can be arrested for thinking about it, or have your income frozen for taking part in what you thought was your right under Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it appears it was their right.

China might be called authoritarian but it’s the kind of authoritarian I like. I live a good life, I don’t break the law, I have no fear of police knocking on my door and I have no fear when I see a police officer walking towards me — in fact, in my neighbourhood, he’s more likely to smile and wave at me.

That’s why I like living here

Watch a video of this article here:



Jerry Grey

I’m British born Australian living in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write mostly positively about my China experiences