Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fixing Beijing's Software

Tonight I took the subway and then taxi to get home.

It was the first time I encountered no taxis at the subway station. And while I was patiently waiting, five other people just stood in front of me or walked ahead and caught taxis, totally ignoring the fact that I was trying to form a queue.

Granted one woman was pregnant, but there was no excuse for the four others to sidestep me as if I wasn't even there and grab a taxi before me.

Interestingly, just before I was fuming about queue jumping, I had just read an article in City Weekend, a bi-weekly magazine, giving an assessment of what Beijing needs to do to get ready for its international scrutiny, one year from now.

"Most Chinese are confident about the hardware for the 2008 Olympics," says Ge Chenhong, a government advisor and professor at Renmin University, "but they remain more skeptical about the 'software' -- Beijing's ability to improve residents' behavior."

A Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee staff member gave me the same opinion and worries that things like taxi drivers not speaking English, people spitting, dirty toilets, and queue jumping are going to leave a bad impression on visitors when they descend in the Chinese capital next August.

I have to agree.

While the venues are going to be amazing -- from the main stadium nicknamed The Bird's Nest to workers madly 'greening' the city by planting millions of trees and flowers -- people are going to be frustrated, shocked or amused by what they see, hear and smell in this city.

By the same token, China is a developing country and has come so far in a very short period of time. There are definitely rough edges that have yet to be smoothed over. While the Chinese are fiercely proud of hosting the Olympics, the spitting, littering, urinating on the street and queue jumping are not going to stop overnight.

And visitors might just have to accept this as part of the most populous nation's effort to reach some kind of international standard.

1 comment:

ks said...

you hit the nail right on the head. the other day in chinese radio chmb 1320 the scholar-commentor mr. li kam hung from hong kong made the same observation and conclusion after a five day fact fiinding mission in beijing. of its 11 million inbabitants real beijingers only consist of 35%. the rest are mostly 'blind current'- nomadic people from other impoverished provinces. they come to beijing to seek a living. most of them are rude uncultured peasants, having little or no education. it is hard to re-educate them overnight despite tremendous effort on the part of the government and the citizens. it is hoped with some ingenuity china can restrict influx into or force efflux of these people out of the city during the olympic games and present a good show to the world.