In this “new era” of socialism with Chinese characteristics, China’s leader Xi Jinping is still focused on that age-old communist goal of carrying out revolution, at least in the realm of toilets.
Recently, Xi authored a front-page article in the People’s Daily, urging officials to press forward with efforts to build better public bathrooms in the Chinese countryside and at tourist sites around China in an effort to build a more civilized, hygienic, less smelly society.
China’s so-called “toilet revolution” was first launched back in 2015, charged with tidying up the infamously noxious facilities at Chinese tourist attractions which so often have caused foreign visitors to decide that they really didn’t have to go after all. Already, some 68,000 toilets have been either installed or upgraded at scenic spots around the country.
Some public restrooms even now include free toilet paper, though that has caused other problems and solutions to arise.
Big Brother is now rationing toilet paper. Chinese public toilets using facial recognition technology to dispense toilet paper and thwart toilet paper horders. A fine illustration of the trade-off between privacy and security.https://t.co/XpCl3jDD8N pic.twitter.com/Q7BMj88KoQ
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) November 24, 2017
However, the focus of this revolution has also shifted toward improving public toilets in China’s crowded cities and particularly in its rural areas — where communal restrooms are often nothing more than open pits that must be manually emptied out to avoid the spread of disease. On visits to the countryside, Xi has made a habit of asking locals about their loos, believing that providing them with better toilets is one of the best ways to improve their quality of life.
In this effort, last December, China’s National Tourism Administration announced that it was committing $290 billion over the next four years to upgrade 100,000 public toilets in the country’s burnt-out rust belt where once booming factories and coal mines have been shuttered.
Meanwhile, the central mega-city of Chongqing has been at the forefront of this “toilet revolution” with luxurious public washrooms that look like giant cameras, or even Park Güell.
More recently, China has rebranded the United Nations’ “World Toilet Day” (Nov. 19th) as “World Toilet Day and China Toilet Revolution Awareness Day.” On that special day last week, a new platform was introduced on WeChat which allows users to locate the nearest public toilet to them.
The platform already includes 330,000 toilets across 2,288 counties. It’s expected to be released as a mobile app soon, and even eventually include an English version.
Meanwhile, we look forward to the blessed day when we can confidently stride into a Shanghai subway bathroom without first putting on a hazmat suit.