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Image makeover, Chinese way

Image makeover, Chinese way
Highlights

Image makeover, Chinese way. Despite all the material trappings, modern way of living in skyscrapers, the Chinese are not able to shed some of their rustic habits they have inherited from the ancient past.

Despite all the material trappings, modern way of living in skyscrapers, the Chinese are not able to shed some of their rustic habits they have inherited from the ancient past.

When people talk about China, it will be in superlatives. Beginning with the most populous nation on the face of Earth, tallest buildings, fastest trains, biggest shopping malls, the longest wall, the fastest growing economy, not to speak of Chinese exports that run into trillions, the highest forex reserves, et al are conversation topics for frequent travelers and tourists to the 21st Wonder called China.

Nobody returns without admiring at the astonishing progress and achievements the Chinese have made in post-liberation period beginning in the 70s, about a decade earlier than India opened up to the outside world.

A decade of difference in development timescale is too small to make a major impact; but not in the case of Chinese who have left us way behind, showcasing to the world that their capitalist avatar of communism is a better growth model than Nehruvian socialism with a spatter of capitalism-corporatism in India.

Indian visitors to China can’t miss the glaring difference between the two neighbours right from stepping out of the aircraft. Glitz and gleam that put some of the acclaimed cities in the world to shame are the right way of describing the Chinese urban conglomerates where Mammon has put Marx in his place. In the last few decades, Chinese have changed, they way they think, the styles they adopt to dress, the manner they conduct themselves with an air of self-assurance to give others, particularly the westerners who used to ridicule everything Chinese, they were second to none. Despite all the material trappings, modern way of living in skyscrapers, the Chinese are not able to shed some of their rustic habits they have inherited from the ancient past.

Or, so it seems if we go by the ‘advice’ the Chinese government gives to its travelers going abroad for business or pleasure.

One could find hordes of Chinese tourists in South-East Asia, Europe, and, of course, the destination that should not be missed, the US. Everybody loves them, for their money and their spend; but, apparently, not their habits in public which forced the authorities to issue a 64-page handbook to Chinese travelers listing Dos and Don’ts when they are touring abroad. Call it Blue Book or Red Book or by any other name, it is aimed at building China’s image, in the eyes of others who may be curiously watching the Chinese tourists wherever they go.

The impression they give non-Chinese should reflect the nation’s growing stature and its economic strength, not that of an under-developed poor country. Their mannerisms, general behavior and overall self-presentation, is, at micro level, what all China about. If the Chinese travelers show ill-manners, behave clumsily and throw personal hygiene to the wind, they reflect poorly on their country which is trying to build an image that is commensurate with its size and strength. So, a conscious Chinese government doesn’t want its people to carry a dirty picture of themselves when they travel outside.

The handbook the Chinese travelers are supposed to carry contains tips on how to maintain a ‘clean’ image. Or, we can say image makeover. For instance, Don’t pee in swimming pools; Don’t stay too long in public toilets; Don’t pick nose or teeth in public; Don’t urinate in public, etc. The book also includes country-specific advisories which explain the cultural, religious and social aspects that are different from their own.

Indeed, it’s a good idea, though we don’t know how many vacationers will carry the book with them, or, at least go through the contents before embarking on their exotic journeys to foreign lands. Since behavior and habits are personal, the government can’t do much about them except appealing to the people’s common sense and giving them a lesson or two in civilized ways of living.

As the second most populous country, after China, in the world, we too have the same problems which are worse because people here enjoy unlimited freedoms unlike the Chinese. At least on this score we can beat them. Even if advisories and lessons are given, fines are imposed, laws are made, nothing seems to work.

People continue to urinate, defecate, spit, toss paper pieces out of buses, cars and other vehicles, in streets, parks, anywhere and everywhere, including places of worship.

It is a matter of right in India, not an offence like in many other countries. We love to cling to the dirty picture, notwithstanding the strides we have made in other fields. Why? Cleanliness is last on anybody’s mind, particularly public kind.

It is not the question of image building like in China but an issue of personal hygiene and outlook on life. Can it ever change?

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