Though I received a fair bit of criticism for my entry titled Responsible Tourism in Reverse: Educating the Chinese, I do not think I’m totally in the wrong. Consider the following excerpts from an article in City Weekend, titled: One Year and Counting: With just one year until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jonathan Haagen takes a look at what’s being done to get the city ready for its world debut.
Lu-Chin Mischke walks impatiently across the Lido Hotel Starbucks. She stands over the glob of phlegm, just discharged on the ground by a Chinese businessman, and hands the offending party a card detailing the harm done by public spitting. The man, stunned, stands dumbfounded for a moment, but then reaches for a napkin to clean the floor. “I suppose I could just let it go,” says Mischke, the founder of the Pride Institute, a non-profit organization aimed at improving Chinese etiquette, “but in just one year, the eyes of the whole world will be on China. We can’t keep hacking and spitting all the time.”
The Olympics are a powerful motivator for change. Never before has the world’s focus been directed at Beijing in the way it will be during the 2008 Games. In preparation for this unprecedented attentionâ€”and scrutinyâ€”the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, city officials and regular citizens like Mischke are on a mission to makeover the capital inside and out. With the Olympics just one year away, how are they doing and what is left to be done?
Mischke agrees: “I don’t think improving the outside of the city will mean much, if we don’t improve the inside as well.” Eager to help Beijingers lose their reputation for jumping in front of the line, expectorating rudeness, officials at the Capital Ethics Development Office sent almost 2 million etiquette books to city families. China Daily also printed numerous articles this year on acceptable spectator behavior. Even the Beijing police joined the movement, investing millions of yuan in a surveillance van equipped with infrared cameras capable of spotting spitters at a distance of 250 meters. Private operators like Mischke have also helped the cause by offering seminars to encourage good manners and positive peer pressure.
Bussing her own table, Mischke describes what it will take for the Beijing Olympics to be a success: “We have enough volunteers. We have the drive. The key will be reaching a tipping point where regular Chinese people start to exhibit pride in themselves and their country.” Across the cafÃ©, a customer stamps out his cigarette on the floor, and turns to leave. Mischke hands him a card warning him of the harmful effects of littering. The man stares at her blankly and then drops the card on the floor by his cigarette butt.
“We have made a lot of progress,” Mischke sighs. “We still have some work to do, too.”
Based on that, it seems you can think of me as an NGO also helping China prepare for its world debut with the 2008 Olympics.