Zhang Lijia
Zhang Lijia

China’s top officials have asked their fellow citizens to behave when they travel and refrain from spitting and loud talking. Author Zhang Lijia puts spitting in a historical perspective, and believes bad habit decreased, and can disappear, she told BBC News.

Zhang Lijia:

Of course, there’s the force of habit. I actually much prefer my new neighbourhood of Wine God Village. The streets are full of life and energy; people are friendly. And it is authentic. Some of my neighbours have indeed brought their habits from their village where the social norms are looser. Another reason for their uncaring behaviour, I suppose, is that they feel that they are not accepted or respected by the locals. Beijing is not their city. So why should they care?

Spitting is the most notorious among the uncivilized Chinese manners and has made its way into travel literature. In his Riding the Iron Roostertravel writer Paul Theroux wrote about the Chinese: “Spat all the time. . . You expected them to propel it about five yards, like a Laramie stockman sitting over a fence. But no they never gave it any force. They seldom spat more than a few inches from where they stood. They did not spit out, they spit down.”

Overall, spitting has become much less a problem. As a former champion of spitting competitions, I used to spit a great deal. When I was a worker at a rocket factory, we used to have spitting competitions when we were bored. We would line up and see who could shot the furthest or hit a certain spot with force and accuracy. Theroux would have changed his lines if he had seen us! In those days, most parts of China were pretty dirty. So it didn’t really matter if you added some dark yellow bits here and there. But the changed living environment and the realization of its unpleasantness – especially the foreplay – have transformed me. If I can change, anyone can.

More at BBC News (from Zhang Lijia’s website).

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. When you need her at your meeting or conference, do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

Rampant pollution is one of the reasons to explain Chinese spitting habits. At the China Weekly Hangout sustainability expert Richard Brubaker explained in January where the pollution if coming from, and what can be done. Moderation by Fons Tuinstra of the China Speakers Bureau.

Coming Thursday the China Weekly Hangout will discuss the changes in China’s labor force, especially the blue collar workers with Dee Lee, running since 2007 a workers’ hotline at Inno in Guangzhou. Expected is also economist Heleen Mees from New York. Moderation by Fons Tuinstra, president of the China Speakers Bureau. Our first announcement is here, and you can register for the hangout here.

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