Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

‘Civilised city’ campaign

Things are getting better all the time. Reminiscent of the great Beijing Olympics cleanup in 2008, cities in China are competing to get civilised. Although in this case, it seems really cosmetic.

But… “Women wearing red armbands patrol the streets and pick up cigarette butts. Volunteer crossing guards with yellow flags and whistles make sure people wait for green lights. Beggars, even those with legs withered by polio, are banished from their usual haunts on pedestrian bridges.”

Too much? Going too far?





‘Civilised city’ campaign
AP
Source – Straits Times 25 August 2009

Each year, the central government awards the prized designation to one or more cities, and it is a big deal for Guangzhou (left), once known as Canton, as it tries to shed a reputation for being dirty and crime-ridden. — PHOTO: AP

GUANGZHOU – GOVERNMENT-BACKED neighbourhood groups are going door-to-door in south China’s gritty business capital with a set of simple requests: Please stop spitting in public, cutting in bus lines and talking loudly in the streets.

It’s all part of a campaign in Guangzhou, China’s third-wealthiest metropolis, to win the coveted ‘Civilised City’ award – an annual ritual that sparks months of frantic scrubbing and buffing in cities across China.

Women wearing red armbands patrol the streets and pick up cigarette butts. Volunteer crossing guards with yellow flags and whistles make sure people wait for green lights. Beggars, even those with legs withered by polio, are banished from their usual haunts on pedestrian bridges.

While some citizens remain skeptical of the cleanup drive, it jibes with Chinese leaders’ goal of shifting away from the blind pursuit of blistering economic growth at any cost. They want to focus more on creating a spiffier, healthier, more cultured and harmonious society.

Each year, the central government awards the prized designation to one or more cities, and it is a big deal for Guangzhou, once known as Canton, as it tries to shed a reputation for being dirty and crime-ridden. Next year, this historic port city of 10 million people hosts the Asian Games – the region’s equivalent of the Olympics – that will draw 25,000 athletes, coaches and journalists from 45 countries.

The civility campaign also highlights how the Communist Party still likes to indulge in often heavy-handed Big Brother social engineering, reaching deep into people’s lives – or at least their living rooms – to try to mould the masses.

Beijing launched a similar campaign before the 2008 Olympics, trying to curb spitting, jumping ahead in line, littering and reckless driving.

In Guangzhou, members of neighbourhood committees, government-backed councils that monitor households, are knocking on doors in the evening and handing out a survey and brochures about improving civil behaviour. — AP

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Filed under: Culture, Environment, Straits Times

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