There are three main classroom buildings here for international students. Probably the first thing the casual observer notices upon entering one of them is the security guard sitting at the desk placed awkwardly in the center of the room.
In fact, anyone walking by one of the buildings will see the security guard staring back at them through the glass doors. And naturally, the presence of a security guard conjures up feelings of peace, security, and safety.
...that is until you begin to explore.
For example, behold the emergency phone directly across from the security guard's desk.
Looks "safe," right? Now drop your eyes down a little ways.
It's not connected to anything. That makes me wonder if those other two "safe"-looking boxes next to the phone are hollow.
But maybe I'm being too hard on them. Maybe they're working on it. They've probably got some backup plans in the meantime.
*walks up stairs*
See! Look over there! That fire exit is screaming, "Safety!"
The lights on the sign are even on.
What's more, the literal translation of the Chinese is not just "Exit" but "Safe Exit." This makes up for the phony phone.
It's locked. Every day. And there are no other exits. But at least we're safe from burglars.
I want to be careful not to use my university as the representative of all of China. Perhaps my university is just an exception. But I have seen similar kinds of things around here.
For example, one of my friends here has a friend who is a fireman. That fireman saw the fire extinguishers either in the dorm or in this building (I don't remember), and he said they aren't functional at all.
A Chinese person also told me that if someone is trying to break into your home and rob you or hurt you, it is best to take the matter into your own hands (i.e. grab a baseball bat or knife and get to business) because the cops will take way too long to arrive.
However, I have heard that the paramedics will come quickly when called.
All of that said, more than one of my Chinese friends in the States have said that they consider China to be really safe. Maybe the unplugged safety phone, the locked fire exits, and the unusable fire extinguishers are actually signs of how safe China is. After all, only places that have intruders and catch on fire need those kinds of things.