China is a country known for its revolutions. There was the Xinhai Revolution – the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. Then there was the Second Chinese Revolution, the 1913 rebellion against Yuan Shikai. The Northern Expedition was a military campaign by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces against the Beiyang government in 1926–28. The Chinese Civil War was the conflict between the Nationalist government and the Communists from 1927–49. Then they had the Chinese Communist Revolution, the victory of the Communist Party of China in the final stage of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Then, of course, there is a whole list of rebellions including the Boxer Rebellion and the Cultural Revolution. Once again, China is undergoing a revolution … this one is the Toilet Revolution.
Now, I have never traveled to China, so I have no experience with public restrooms there. Frankly, I try to avoid public restrooms even here in the U.S., but that is another story. At any rate, apparently public restrooms in China are known for being rather disgusting. Well, I suppose that with all the revolutions they have been engaged in over the past century, nobody has had much time to think about upgrading the restrooms. So, recently China announced yet another revolution: a Toilet Revolution! (Taylor, The Washington Post, 17 February 2016). The plan was to bring the public facilities up to the standards of international travelers. Tens of thousands of new toilets would be constructed, others renovated, at a cost of ¥12.5 billion, or the equivalent of $1.9 billion. Now, in the U.S., at an average cost of $200 per toilet (installed), that would be 9,500,000 toilets. But then, you need to consider that the U.S. government once (2010) paid $41,000 per toilet to replace 36 toilets at the Denali National Park in Alaska http://www.wnd.com/2010/12/242597/. (Gotta wonder if Sarah Palin had anything to do with that!) At that rate, the Chinese would only to be able to get 46,341 toilets. Of course, I think that in most cases the Chinese are probably more efficient than we, so perhaps the number is somewhere in the middle, say 3-4 million toilets.
You may be wondering why this is being called a revolution. Revolutionary technology? Hardly. A toilet is a toilet is a toilet, right? (More about that later) No, the thing that makes this a revolution, or at least is potentially revolutionary, is that there is to be a government “blacklist” … a list of people who are banned from entering the new public facilities based on their past behaviour in said facilities. According to Li Shihong, deputy chief of the China National Tourism Administration (NTA), “Many people spend a lot of time dressing themselves, but they do not spare a second to flush the toilet. Toilet civilization has a long way to go in China.” The blacklist would ban those who had previously exhibited “uncivilized behaviour in public conveniences”. I am curious as to how they would enforce such a blacklist.
Now, about those Chinese toilets … here is a description of public restrooms by former Washington Post journalist Peter S. Goodman:
“In a public toilet — be it at the park, on a main thoroughfare, at the airport or in a train station — the air is often so foul that you limit your breathing. The smell wafts out into the surrounding neighborhood. You keep your eyes turned upward, to avoid fixing on the squalid floor. Most toilets have no toilet paper. Many lack running water. Everywhere, flushing seems optional. People with major business to attend to must typically execute it in full view of everyone else over a big gulley without privacy walls. Sit-down toilets? Rare.”
That was in 2005, ten years ago. Well, the wheels turn slowly in a Communist country, but the Chinese government formed a “Toilet Association” to address the problem, and now things are rolling! Have you ever been in a Chinese public restroom? No, me either, but I have pictures!
Suddenly I am not in much of a hurry to visit China. The project to renovate is expected to take approximately three years and will include western-style toilets and deodorization technology. There are even some rumours that public restrooms will include such amenities as big screen televisions, free Wi-Fi, ATMs and sofas! Now that seems to me to be overkill, but then who am I to say?
So, hats off to the Chinese government and I wish them well on this, their latest “revolution”. I think I shall wait a few years before I plan to visit, though.