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It’s time for a Chinese toilet revolution

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

01-13-2017 15:11 BJT

By Qian Ding, cctv.com editor

In this not so peaceful world, explosions are often heard in world news, explosions in markets, explosions in airports, explosions in theaters... And recently there happened an explosion in a Chinese public toilet, although it’s not related to terrorism.

According to local authorities,the blast in northwest China’s Shaanxi province on Jan.1, 2017 was triggered by excessive sewer gas in the toilet. Sewer gas consists of the products of decomposing organic waste and may include methane, ammonia and other inflammable gas. The explosion led to collapse of the toilet, killing one person and injuring seven others. Fortunately, all injured have survived the traumatic ordeal.

The toilet that collapsed in explosion [photo/cnwest.com]

The toilet that collapsed in explosion [photo/cnwest.com]

Well, going to public toilets in China is rarely a good experience for me or anyone else not just because you can’t find toilet paper when you need it the most,but also because of their dirty and smelly environment. It’s common to see unflushed toilets and used papers littered on the floor.The worse is that in many places including some tourist spots in Beijing, Chinese capital city, public toilets are basically just a row of pits separated by low walls, You can imagine how weird it is when you are answering the call of nature without your dignity and privacy...Well, let’s put it in this way, at least there is roof. Better than open-air toilets in rural areas where you are exposed to the nature from head to toe with flies and maggots swirling around... That’s why in some way I’m not that surprised by the exploding toilet, since it was bound to happen somehow sooner or later in China.

Some toilets in china [photo/schina.net.cn]

Some toilets in china [photo/schina.net.cn]

Of course, the Chinese government won’t allow dirty public toilets to ruin its globalist image, and compared with the number of GDP (gross domestic product), sanitary conditions are more related to people’s lives. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of infectious diseases in Chinese rural areas are caused by fecal contamination and unsafe water. More than 30 types of infectious diseases such as ascaris lumbricoides and diarrhea are relevant to human waste pollution. Thereby, China has called for toilet “revolutions” nationwide.

Beijing had gone through four "toilet revolutions" in 1965, 1989, 1994 and 2002 to renovate public toilets and has already planned another "toilet revolution" over the next five years to improve sanitation.Central government also urges provincial officials around the country to build new toilets. By the end of 2015, 75 percent of rural homes in China had flush or dry toilets and China had built or upgraded nearly 40,000 toilets in tourist areas by the end of 2016.

Apart from the renovations of toilets, the civilization of behavior is important as well. Posters have been put on toilet doors telling people not to stand on the sit-down toilet. “Many people spend a lot of time dressing themselves, but they do not spare a second to flush the toilet.” Li Shihong, director of the China National Tourism Administration (NTA).

  One “flush the toilet”poster [photo/internet]

One “flush the toilet” poster [photo/internet]

Nowadays, more Chinese go abroad for vacations. As a tourist,it’s essential to learn the customs of your destination before departing.In years past, I still clearly remember how dirty one toilet looked in Lafayette, Paris. The cleaner was blaming Chinese tourists for that, and you could see the long Chinese tourist queue at the restroom gate. The used dirty papers were littered everywhere. However, this is more of a“misunderstanding case” than “ misbehavior case,” as the Chinese are used to throwing papers into the bin put in every toilet compartment in China, and they couldn’t find the bin in western toilets, so... Some of them just didn’t know what to do.

With China’s toilet revolution,Chinese public toilets will be in better condition in the future,but just as Li Shihong said, “Toilet civilization has a long way to go here in China.”


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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