What is this?? (SWAT team in the subway dept)

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8:10 am, April 8, Dongdan 东单 metro station in Beijing: at the exit turnstiles, three black-uniformed troops, with "SWAT" written across their backs in English, holding big, genuine automatic weapons. Considerately, they pointed their rifles at the ground.

??

 I'm used to rent-a-cop style Metro security officers; I'm used to PLA soldiers standing guard around the embassies; I'm used to various uniformed but feckless traffic-"control" agents; I'm used to policemen listening patiently as the antagonists in a fender-bender grow hoarse yelling at each other. But actual soldiers with machine guns? What is this? I thought a photo would be ill-advised.

On the other hand, and still on the security theme, Kevin Miller, of the University of Michigan, submits a photo of another of the mystery bomb-disposal containers I mentioned recently. Conveniently, his had a label in English.  

suspect bomb container1.jpg


It's not wholly legible in that shot, but the label says "Suspect Bomb Container." Even gives a url, www.jwgk.com, with lots of interesting info in Chinese and, to a limited degree, in English:

BombAd.jpg

Now I feel better informed. Though I confess I still don't understand what practical purpose these might serve. As another correspondent pointed out, when he felt daring enough to try to crank one open -- as if to stow a suspected bomb -- it took minutes and minutes to do so. Maybe it's part of the economic stimulus plan. We've seen similar "homeland security" efforts in the US.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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