Shanghai Cops Do Stuff Sometimes

On my way to work each morning, I ride Line 2 to People’s Square, where I transfer to Line 1. Considering the volume of people going through People’s Square during rush hour, it’s a bit insane. What makes it much worse, though, is when there are large groups of people going the wrong way through the one-way transfer channels. They make the whole transfer process much slower and more miserable, and no one is very good-tempered about it.

Honestly, if there’s anything that’s going to embitter me about living in Shanghai long-term, it’s that damn commute.

Fortunately, police officers started enforcing the one-way status of these transfer passageways a few weeks ago. This has made everything much more pleasant, and, well, orderly. Still, Shanghai police are not known for being “badass.” They’re much better known for patiently taking a barrage of verbal abuse from the very people to whom they would be giving a savage beatdown in other parts of the world.

So the other day as I was transferring to Line 1, I saw this sullen looking young guy blow right by a cop, going the wrong way. The cop placed a gentle hand on the guy’s shoulder to tell him not to go that way, but the guy swiftly shrugged it off, not even giving the police officer a glance.

At this point I was really transfixed. Would the cops just let the guy go, or would they actually do something?

That’s when another cop busted in from the side and grabbed hold of the front of the guy’s coat, yelling something at him. The young man foolishly started struggling angrily, at which point two other cops got involved and subdued the guy. Rather than just forcing the guy to go the wrong way, cop #2 roughly led the guy away, clearly planning to give him some more trouble.

It’s funny to admit it, but this incident really made my day: Shanghai cops, actively doing their job, for the benefit of the people. What a concept!


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Maybe those cops have been watching NYPD Blue or Law & Order reruns and were inspired.

  2. What were you doing then, John? hmm? :o)

  3. People yell at cops all the time here. Back home if you treated police like that I’m sure they’d be speechless. When the sheer surprise wore of, they’d probably throw you in the back of the paddy-wagon (police van) and that would be that.

  4. Hey, long time lurker here. I wonder how long it’ll be until people start lining up on one side of the escalators in China so that people in a rush can walk by?

    Anyway, this reminded me of a story from when I was in Shanghai. I knew a couple of interns that decided it would be a good idea to get a couple mini dirt bikes and ignore all traffic laws. When they were stopped on Huaihai lu for running a red light they replied with the typical ‘ting bu dong’ but luckily one of the cops spoke good English and their bikes were impounded. I must admit that it put a smile on my face when I heard about these Shanghai cops doing their jobs and these arrogant gits getting taken down a few pegs.

  5. Well,there are more than 10 million people in Shanghai.To much work could make any one unpatient…
    Anyway, at least it can prove that Shanghai cops are responsible~~

  6. I don’t think Shanghai cops need to be watching US TV shows (and I’m not saying they are not good shows) to know how to do their job correctly.

    I couldn’t help but comment on this, but in my humble opinion, too many individuals erroneously think that people from the other side of the world (China, in this particular case) would pursue all things Western to learn how to improve the way they do this or that thing.

  7. @ Wildaly,

    True… but in this case, Western cops typically do something after they’ve stepped out of the donut shop, while cops in Shanghai watch motorists run red lights. I’ve seen it too many times not to wonder what they get paid or who told them that policing was just a matter of talking people down from fights. Law enforcement is abysmal here.

  8. dude, sino, i’m surprised you don’t do this trick: when you get out of the subway, wait around 30 seconds on the platform by the doors, till the thick of the tube is transferring out already, when you transfer then, there are much much much much less people walking.

  9. Thats almost as gratifying as watching some really bad driver (tailgating, speeding, etc) blow by you then see them pulled over later down the road!

  10. Guest: are you crazy? The best method is: try to learn which subway car door is closest to the escalator you’ll want to use, and use that one to get off the subway. Then, get a position right at the front and center where the subway doors open. Right when the car stops (but before the doors open) try to intimidate people on the other side of the window to get out of the center and let you pass – this is easier if you are six and a half feet tall. Then when the doors open, be the first one off the train and hurry to the escalator before the crowds get to it!

    You can either walk up the escalator, or if you’re local-style, stand in the middle of the escalator and don’t let people pass. Either way you’re at the front of the crowd, surfing it to the next subway.

  11. Jeffrey D,

    Yeah, I’m with you. That’s what I usually do.

  12. Maybe soon, they’ll start tasing people!

  13. Mark in Dunan Says: December 6, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    I don’t know why you guys are happy to see the comps give a guy rough treatment for what’s really a minor thing.

    Do you ever get hassled by them for basically not being Chinese? Over here in Japan, that happens all the time and I’d hate to see China go the same way.

  14. Mark,

    As I said: “Shanghai cops, actively doing their job, for the benefit of the people.”

    I don’t see how that could amount to hassling someone “for basically not being Chinese.”

  15. Assaulting a citizen, because he went the wrong way in a passageway? I thought this blog was a neocon-free zone? This is the sort of thing I’d expect from Bu$hitler’s USA.

  16. krovvy,

    Good to see my subtlety was not wasted on you.

    Yes, I am a fascist.

  17. I’ve lived in China about 5 years and have often wondered what policemen do here other than direct traffic when big officials need escorting around town. Oh wait, when I lived in Haikou, I often saw them rounding up illegal motorcycles.

  18. people that break the law of a country should be punished, but sometimes there will be an abuse of power, I find if many foreigners in China tend to only follow the laws they agree with. Sometimes I feel people should take the law into their own hands(for example if someone is trying to rob your wife on a bridge, just push the guy off it if you can, I dont care if he had a bad childhood) but everything can so easily go wrong in this kind of situation.

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