Although it has a reputation for being a difficult country in which to do business, China has always given visitors the impression that it is otherwise safe. In the nineteenth century, a time when buildings were not secured, Herbert Giles noted with some fascination that foreigners who went on vacation could expect to return and find everything right where it had been left.
Stanley High, writing in the 1920s, described a long journey from Chongqing to Tibet, in which he employed no fewer than seventy‐five coolie laborers. To finance the camel‐driven caravan, he secured several hundred dollars in silver and packed it away. Each one of the laborers, he figured, knew precisely where he had stashed the money. And yet this small fortune, an amount “sufficient to provide a lifelong endowment for any half dozen of them,” remained untouched.
I have lost two mobile phones in China and was lucky enough in each case to have the handheld brought back to me. All I had to do was ring my number and speak to the kindly fellow who was in possession of it. Of course the person who answered the phone was never the one who had actually found it, but he was nevertheless glad to assist. All we had to do was discuss the small matter of his travel expenses, because somehow—within a matter of minutes—the device had wound up in a distant town, and surely I would insist on personal delivery.
Scamps of this variety typically ask for only a fraction of the replacement cost ...