Chinese leader Xi Jinping has declared the need for a “toilet revolution” across the country with the aim of improving domestic tourism and overall quality of life.
“Toilet issues are not petty matters but an important aspect of improving infrastructure in urban and rural areas,” Xi was quoted as saying.
The need to improve public toilets was mentioned in Xi’s report to the Chinese Communist Party Congress in September, describing it as one of the administration’s principal challenges.
Xi first launched his toilet campaign in 2015 in a bid to clean up China’s notoriously dirty and foul-smelling public bathrooms at tourist sites across the country.
“While visiting rural areas, Xi used to ask local residents about the conditions of the toilets they use, and stressed many times that clean toilets for rural residents are important for the building of a ‘new countryside,’” the state news agency Xinhua wrote.
“In rural areas, some toilets were little more than makeshift shelters surrounded by bunches of corn stalks, and some were open pits next to pigsties,” it continued. “Local authorities are now more aware of the important role toilets play, believing better toilets are not only beneficial for tourism, but can also enhance the overall level of civilization of society.”
According to the outlet, over 68,000 public toilets have since been refurbished, 20 percent above the original target, while another 64,000 are expected to be built or refurbished between 2018 and 2020.
In May, a report from the Chinese National Tourism Administration warned sites such as the Xixia Dinosaur Park in Henan province and the Northwestern Qinghai Lake that they were “seriously lagging behind” in the effort to improve the standard of living.
“At tourist sites, visitors were angered by insufficient toilets, unhygienic conditions, and a lack of sanitation workers,” the report said.
Some of the newly designed toilets in China currently have strict rules, which include restricted amounts of toilet paper to fight back against “greedy” toilet users and the trialing of facial recognition technology to deter people from stealing toilet rolls.
Meanwhile, authorities traced an explosion in a port city south of Shanghai this weekend that killed two people and injured at least 30 more to a hole in the ground that was formally a toilet. They have not confirmed why the hole exploded.