China’s rich seek bodyguards schooled in digital arts

An instructor, right, and trainees during a session at the Genghis Security Academy in Tianjin, China. Mobile phones are confiscated during the sessions. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2020

China’s rich seek bodyguards schooled in digital arts

  • Positions worth up to $70k, graduates eye jobs as guards to burgeoning ranks of rich

TIANJIN, China: At the “Genghis Security Academy,” which bills itself as China’s only dedicated bodyguard school, students learn that the threats to the country’s newly rich in the tech age are more likely to emerge from a hacker than a gunman.

Each day students in matching black business suits toil from dawn until midnight at the school in the eastern city of Tianjin, where digital defenses are given equal pegging to the traditional close-protection skillset of combat, weapons training and high-speed driving.

Around a thousand graduate each year, hoping to land jobs as guards to China’s burgeoning ranks of rich and famous, positions which can be worth up to $70,000 — several times more than an annual office wage.

But the school says it can’t meet demand as China’s rapid growth mints millionaires — 4.4 million according to a Credit Suisse 2019 report, more than in the US.

The course fees are up to $3,000 a student, and while they had to cancel training between February and June because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has not dampened demand.

Only the best make the cut, says founder Chen Yongqing, insisting his disciplinarian standards are stricter than in the army.

“I’m quick-tempered and very demanding,” the army veteran from China’s northern Inner Mongolia region told AFP.

“Only by being strict can we cultivate every good sword. If you don’t forge it well, it will break itself.”

About half of the students are ex-military, Chen says.

They train in rows in a large, shabby sports hall, holding blue plastic guns ahead of them with a steady stare — before practicing hustling their clients safely into a black Audi with smashed windows.

Other sessions are held in a classroom or gym, where they box in matching red T-shirts.

Mobile phones are confiscated throughout, while meals are taken in silence in a large dining hall presided over by pictures of acclaimed graduates, who have protected everyone from China’s second richest man Jack Ma to visiting French presidents.

“We have been defining the standard of Chinese bodyguards,” instructor Ji Pengfei told AFP.

In one class, students in pairs work through a scenario protecting a “client” from an intruder.




A new skillset to protect the country’s tycoons has been introduced. (AFP)

“Danger!” shouts Ji, prompting the guard to quickly throw their “boss” behind them and pull out a gun in the same move.

Those who fail to do it in two seconds are assigned 50 push-ups.

The guns at the Tianjin school are fake — China outlaws possession of firearms. For live firearms training, students are taken to Laos in Southeast Asia.

But in a highly surveilled country with a low rate of street crime, the modern minder needs an up-to-date skillset, against state monitoring or professional hackers.

“Chinese bosses don’t need you to fight,” Chen tells his students of a client base which includes the country’s biggest real estate and tech firms.

Repelling hacks on mobile phones, network security, spotting eavesdroppers and wiping data are all required tools in the bodyguard’s armory.

“What would you do if the boss wants to destroy a video file immediately?” Chen asks a class.

Even so, old-school threats still exist in China — earlier this year billionaire He Xiangjian, founder of Midea and one of the country’s richest men, was kidnapped at his home.

According to Chinese media, He’s son escaped by jumping into a river and was able to call the police, who said they arrested five suspects at the scene.

Student Zhu Peipei, a 33-year-old army veteran from northern Shanxi province, hopes becoming a bodyguard could offset his lack of professional skills or academic qualifications.

“And of course, it’s cool,” he added.

But the alumni of the Genghis Academy also provide humdrum services, like accompanying children of the rich and famous to school — for a fee of 180,000 yuan ($26,000) a year.

That in itself is far more than the base salary in private companies of around 53,000 yuan.

Students must also navigate the quirks of their wealthy clients, says trainer Ji.

Some only trust bodyguards whose Chinese zodiac sign matches theirs, he explains — while one, from a Fortune 500 company, only wanted to hire from his hometown.

Another demanded a prospective bodyguard tell him what books he liked to read — he was hired after saying he liked military novels.


Russia’s Lukoil lifts Iraq output as it swings to profit

Updated 25 November 2020

Russia’s Lukoil lifts Iraq output as it swings to profit

  • Lukoil claims to account for about 2 percent of global oil production

MOSCOW: Russian oil producer Lukoil said on Tuesday that it had reversed a loss into a profit of 50.4 billion roubles ($664 million) in the third quarter thanks to a rise in oil prices, while it had boosted oil output in Russia and Iraq.

Lukoil has faced a pandemic fallout as well as a weaker rouble, which has inflated its debt, denominated in foreign currencies. The company’s output has been also constrained by a global deal on production curbs.

The company had finished the second quarter with a loss of 18.7 billion roubles.

Lukoil said on Tuesday that it had started to boost its output at West Qurna-2 oil field in Iraq from the middle of October, by around 30,000 barrels per day (bpd), after cuts of around 70,000 bpd from May 1 and by 50,000 bpd more from mid-June, in accordance with the deal.

Lukoil, whose largest shareholders are its head, Vagit Alekperov, and vice president Leonid Fedun, also said it had raised its oil output in Russia.

The company said sales rose to 1.46 trillion roubles in the July — September quarter from 986.4 billion roubles in April-June.

The growth was mainly attributable to higher hydrocarbon prices, higher production of refined products at the group’s refineries, as well as higher trading and retail sales volumes, Lukoil said in a statement.

The company also began to recover its natural gas production in Uzbekistan in September.