Chinese Ps & Qs
Sandie Maxa


After reading what I thought would be an average story about how China was preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, I found myself eager to share some interesting details from China Changes Coarse in the Los Angeles Times.

The Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party (BMCCP) is launching a three-year public relations campaign in an effort to improve the manners of its citizens before the Summer Olympics hit Beijing. Getting the word out on television programs, billboards and by sponsoring "courteous community" competitions, the BMCCP hopes to change habits such as:

+ spitting in public
+ cutting in line
+ aggressive jostling
+ bad driving
+ cooking in the street
+ eating loudly
+ throwing bones on the floor
+ lounging half-naked in public
+ peeing in public

Specific to the last item on the above list, officials hope to phase out the kaidangku, pants with a hole in the bottom that are worn by children who are potty training. The open pants allow kids to do their business whenever nature the street, at the playground, wherever. Intrigued by this article of clothing, I dug a little deeper to find a photo and this description on China Daily's web site, "The principle is clear: no-fuss waste disposal. They're split down the middle — in front and back — and provide what many parents say is maximum convenience with minimum coverage." Not surprisingly, kaidangku are becoming a thing of the past as more and more parents switch to disposable diapers. But, they are not gone forever as they've been adopted by the adult novelty industry as "romance enhancers."

As for the other items on the list, the BMCCP has their work cut out for them. China has historical precedent for what some folks would deem bad manners. After 1949 when the Communists came to power, politeness and refined behavior was categorized as a plot by the ruling-class to control people. And the leader of the time, Mao Tse-tung himself was know to:

+ scratch himself in public
+ hold meetings naked if he was hot
+ remove lice and fleas from his trousers while speaking
+ attend the funeral of Marshal Chen Yi in his pajamas

And let's not forget that China has a population of 1 billion — that's a lot of manners to change.