Stealing steel

From the Economist’s weekly newsletter on Tokyo:

Tokyo’s street furniture is falling prey to thieves. Mountains of pavement gratings, storm-drain covers and electrical cables are being moved from the capital along the bay to Yokohama, where ships are said to arrive from China to carry it away.

Yokohama police believe the crime spree is related to preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which have sent the prices of metals and alloys used in construction soaring. Chinese companies have learned how to convert waste alloys into stainless steel, creating an unforeseen demand for scrap. Japan’s metal street furniture is barely secured, owing to the country’s low levels of crime, so much of it has gone missing, particularly metal doors and aluminium fencing. Scrap dealers in Tokyo suspect stealing is at an all-time high because it is not the industry practice to ask questions over provenance. There are no authorities charged with monitoring the scrap trade.

Japan is a very safe country, and as such has been caught off-guard by various unseemly elements as globalization changes the world. The past decade has seen the country experience, and respond to, overseas crime syndicates, foreigners flouting the train ticket system, local business operations funding North Korean, and illegal drug-smuggling. Success in tackling these threats has been mixed. How will Japan stop the scrap metal thieves?

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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5 Responses to Stealing steel

  1. Joe says:

    Never mind that–how will they ever stop the scourge of white people on bicycles?!

  2. subadei says:

    _How will Japan stop the scrap metal thieves?_

    Plastic.

  3. Lexington Green says:

    “How will Japan stop the scrap metal thieves?”

    Law enforcement? Caning?

    This is a relatively minor, but still interesting example of “black globalization”. A high-radius-of-trust community (Japan) that functions well is beset by criminality that it cannot cope with by means of its existing institutions. A resource hungry China will eat its neighbors. Not a pretty picture.

  4. Sadly, some of Ishihara’s more barking statements on the criminal Chinese will probably gain credence within Japan.

  5. captbbq says:

    “Chinese companies have learned how to convert waste alloys into stainless steel”

    I that case I would have to conclude one of two things:

    A) The Chinese have stumbled onto the Holy Grail of Alchemy
    B) The Chinese are building a lot of new structures out of “zinc girders”

    but seriously, the author at the Economist should have phrased that part better…