Chinese Ps & Qs


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.

paul, Oct 4 2005 1:37PM

even though i find it disturbing a bit, i am not all that surprised. China is not the only country that has "habits."

mark, Oct 4 2005 3:12PM

what exactly is "agressive jostling"? sounds to me like the maneuver in four square known as bobbling.

by the way, that's some mighty fine sleuthing finding a picture of the buttless pants, in context no less. as you may imagine, my western sensibilities are offended by the garment but there are some nights those pants might come in handy.

Ann, Oct 4 2005 7:06PM

Wow. I had no idea about the split pants for toddlers in China. I often feel sorry for my son who has to wear a diaper 24/7 except for baths and getting it changed. Occasionally we let him run around naked, but not that often. I cannot imagine how uncomfortable diapers are...wearing a super-size maxi pad 24/7 would suck! This past week we were at the beach where my son got to wear swimsuits that didn't require a diaper underneath. I'm sure he enjoyed the freedom!

Matthew, Oct 6 2005 3:43PM

I have heard of the split pants, but not actually seen them.
I thought it would be a nice compromise if they required parents to follow the kids around with plastic grocery bags, like pet owners do in America. I guess disposable diapers are better for the urban environment, but I don't think anyone would call disposable diapers environmentally friendly.

Matthew, Oct 18 2005 6:06PM

There has been several articles summarized here by slate

on the american anti-diaper movement. I agree with the slate writer in that a diaper-free kid is not historically unusual, and can be better for the environment, but it doesn't fit very well in the american lifestyle.

Who knows, maybe by the time China has converted to diapers, America will abandon them.

mark, Oct 18 2005 10:08PM

oddly enough, i have seen both an article in the ny times as well as a couple of features on morning new programs about this diaper-free movement. much more info is available at

i, personally, haven't read anything about it and have little or no opinion.

sandie, Oct 19 2005 11:28AM

It would be hard for me to make the leap of faith that a diaper-free baby would require. I'd have to cover all of my furniture with plastic for a few years.