Have You No Shame?

Two weeks ago the China Real Time Report blog did a post about a campaign by city officials in Wuhan to "improve the behavior of its citizens."

Frustrated at the inability of traditional progapanda and fines to improve the behavior of its citizens, the government of Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, has teamed with local media to produce a city-wide name-and-shame list. The inaugural list — released over the weekend and teased on the front page of the Wuhan Evening News with the blaring headline "City Reveals First Group of 'Uncivilized Residents'" — verbally tars and feathers 40 people for engaging in one of four unacceptable activities: careless running of red lights, careless parking, jaywalking ("careless crossing of the street") and littering ("careless throwing around of garbage"). The lists and photos have been duly reproduced by Chinese media, including the website of Pheonix TV). The Wuhan Evening News promises a fresh set of lists every week, but the categories could change.  Next time, the lists might include "carelessly dumping sediment," "throwing things from high places" or any number of other inconsiderate activities, Yan Hong, head of the Wuhan Civilization Office, told Xinhua (in Chinese) on Wednesday.

This reminds me of a similar civilization campaign that was launched here around the time Beijing was bidding to host the Olympics. One of the local newspapers, the Beijing Youth Daily, decided they wanted to root out some of the uncivilized behaviors of Beijingers.

For awhile they were particularly going after Beijing taxi drivers, and their habit of pulling their shirts up to cool off their bellies in hot weather (I call it "The Beijing Belly"). The paper sent their photographers around town to surrupticiously take photos of cabbies with their bellies hanging out. Then, to shame the cabbies into covering up, they published the photos in the newspaper each day.

Unfortunately, the campaign backfired, as the cabbies all decided that it was a badge of honor, not shame, to get photos of their bellies into the paper.  The competition was on to see who had the best bellies.

After a couple of weeks, the newspaper wisely and quietly abandoned their campaign, and to this day still, one of the unmistakable signs of summer in the city is the appearance of The Beijing Belly.