China’s new revolution

I have been writing about China recently. I found a news item last week that present the interesting indicator of a country’s development. It is quite informative too.

BEIJING, NOVEMBER 15: Some 55 years after the Communist revolution, the Chinese government is pulling out all stops to foment a new kind of upheaval: ”Toilet Revolution.” The majority of the Beijing city’s public toilets are little more than smelly holes in the floor. Municipal authorities want to change all that in time for the 2008 Olympics.
”Toilets represent the level of development of a country or region,” says Yu Debin, deputy director of Beijing’s Municipal Bureau of Tourism. Yet, More than one-third of all tourist complaints in Beijing are toilet-related. Assisting the mainland in its toilet revolution is the Singapore-based World Toilet Organisation whose mission it is to ”continuously generate awareness of the importance of a good toilet environment.”

Public toilets made their debut in the Middle Kingdom some 2000 years ago and the modern flush toilet first appeared in China in the 19th century. However, squat toilets remain the norm till today.Urban myth has it that when the People’s Liberation Army led by the Communists took over a city in 1949, a team of soldiers found a white porcelain basin-like container fixed on the bathroom floor of a residence vacated by an officer of the fleeing enemy. The soldiers decided to wash some rice in the ”big bowl” before cooking. It all went wrong when one of the men decided to pull the rope attached to the cistern and the rice dissapeared. Several decades later, the majority of mainland public toilets remain flushless but numerous. Beijing alone has more than 8,000 public bathrooms.

There are no flushes and the mess piles up until evening, when a ”pump truck” makes the rounds of the neighbourhoods, sucking up everything from the pits. Small wonder then that a multi-million dollar toilet renovation of the city’s public toilets is underway. According to Beijing municipal authorities, over $10 million a year will be spent till 2008 on transforming the city’s bathrooms into ”luxurious lavatories.” The city has come up with a rating system of 1 to 4 stars for its public facilites and government figures show that the capital already has 88 four-star toilets. By the time of the Olympics, visitors will never be more than an 8-minute walk from a star-rated toilet.

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