The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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You’ve nothing to lose but your bad manners

Beijing, Aug. 18: Good manners may have been seen as something of a bourgeois affectation during chairman Mao’s ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution, but yesterday the Communist Party put its foot down on poor etiquette.

Don’t clear your throat loudly in public. Don’t spit. Remember to wash your hands before a meal. And don’t yell on your mobile phone.

These are a few of the new golden rules of polite travelling compiled to form the basis of a national education campaign on good manners when going abroad. The drive was launched by the ruling party’s Spiritual Civilisation Steering Committee.

A party circular said: “The behaviour of some Chinese travellers is not compatible with the nation’s economic strength and its growing international status.” A newspaper headline ran: “Don’t disgrace your country.”

Travellers will be exhorted not to squat and smoke at the same time. They will be told not to throw litter and not to take off their shoes on aircraft.

A huge audience exists for the lessons in courtesy. Before reforms in the late 1970s, only a tiny number of people were allowed to go abroad. With increasing wealth and the easing of travel restrictions, huge numbers of Chinese are going abroad for business and tourism.

Last year, 31 million Chinese travelled abroad, and as many as 100 million are expected to take foreign trips each year by 2020.

Officials say, however, that getting people to follow these tips on how not to appear uncouth and how to avoid letting down the image of China when overseas will be a tough task. At Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, an army of workers is deployed to keep the plaza clean, scraping chewing gum from almost every corner of China’s premier tourist attraction.

Chinese with little exposure to foreign travel usually take their habits with them. In tropical Southeast Asia, a favourite destination, men are frequently to be seen in airport check-in queues with trousers rolled up to the knee and their singlets bunched up to the armpits to keep cool.

Conversation is frequently carried on with such a robust tone that anyone not understanding Chinese could easily mistake a discussion for a fight.

Qian Yi, a sales manager at China’s biggest state-owned travel agent, CITS, said: “We’ve been trying to do this for years with little result. While tourists are rich and can travel abroad, they are not the most educated or well-behaved people in China.”

He noted many bad habits. In Japan, tourists persistently make a noise and sing and shout in the hot baths, prompting other customers to leave.

He thinks manners should be taught in childhood. “Now they talk about spiritual civilisation. Isn’t it too late' I doubt if this will work”, he said.

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