February 21, 2007

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Be polite...or else

Beijing's social engineering instincts are not always bad. In the lead up to next year's Olympics the government is trying to make its citizens more polite and the good news is its working:

Sha Lianxiang, sociology professor with the People's University of China, said that there has been a decline in the number of people littering, spitting and flaunting traffic rules...Sha said the "civic index" of Beijing residents scored 69.06 in2006, 3.85 points higher than 2005. The index takes into account the residents compliance with rules in public health and public order, their attitudes towards strangers, etiquette in watching sports events and willingness to contribute to the Olympic Games. The survey found that the occurrence rates of littering in public places has dropped from 9.1 percent in 2005 to 5.3 percent in 2006; that of spitting has dropped by from 8.4 percent to 4.9 percent; queue-jumping dropped from 9 percent to 6 percent.

However, Sha said the citizens' "civilized degree" still could not meet the demand of the 2008 Olympics. She expected the index to rise to 72 to 78 during the 2008 Olympic Games...

The city has also established the 11th day of every month as "voluntarily wait in line" day to rid the city of queue-jumping.

They have a "voluntary wait in line" day...and its only once a month? Sure there are Orwellian overtones in an academic measuring and targetting this index of manners. But why stop there? Surely happiness needs to be on the list. And why does this only apply to Beijing? Many visitors to the Olympics will also visit other Chinese cities and the countryside, so this should be a national campaign.

Most telling would be to get anecdotal evidence from people in Beijing. Certainly judging by the behaviour in the taxi queue at Causeway Bay yesterday, there's a long way to go in the spitting and queue jumping stakes. Could we have a "voluntary keep your spit inside you" day?

posted by Simon on 02.21.07 at 09:11 AM in the China Olympics category.


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The reality is that etiquette in China, as we define it here in the West, is improving, particularly in places like Shanghai and Beijing. Things are definitely better than five years ago, right?

posted by: China Law Blog on 02.21.07 at 11:21 AM [permalink]

It's not the etiquette of Beijingers that Beijing truly needs to worry about for the Olympic Games, but the etiquette of the tens of thousands of Chinese citizens from the provinces who will come to Beijing during the games.

posted by: Kevin S. on 02.21.07 at 03:45 PM [permalink]

i'm sitting in beijing as i type this and have visited quite often over the past and i can tell you that i do notice a big difference in etiquette and politeness in the last year or so.

spitting is way down and the streets seem cleaner. perhaps the propaganda is really working...?

my anectodal two cents..

posted by: dezza on 02.22.07 at 12:40 AM [permalink]

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