Beijing Diplomacy: China’s ‘Be Splendid’ Contest Aims to Improve Manners

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BEIJING—Here in China’s capital, riding the city’s sprawling subway can sometimes be a contact sport. Morning rush hours turn into mosh-pit-like scenes in which riders compete to board packed trains. Shouts and curses ring out. Elbows are thrown. Occasionally, passengers who squeeze their way in are flung out again by the crowds.

Daily Life in China in the 1970s (42)

“‘We must select the good passengers and let them show up with honor in our town!’ says an open letter to riders circulated as part of the event.”

Now, as President Barack Obama and other world leaders descend on Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week, authorities have launched a behavior-modification campaign: A contest to promote grown-up deportment onboard.

Commuters in Beijing crowd onto a subway car during rush hour last month.Getty Images

Commuters in Beijing crowd onto a subway car during rush hour last month. Getty Images

“Photos of contestants are hung on posters during rush hour across the city’s subway and bus stations. The prize for winners, to be named later this month, includes a subway pass with about $10 of stored value, and a certificate of honor.”

Started this summer, the “Be a Splendid Beijinger and Welcome APEC—Civilized, Polite Passengers” competition aims to identify and honor the top 100 best-behaving bus and subway passengers. It’s a kind of “China’s Next Top Model,” except for public transportation.

“Some 40,000 residents have entered to win. Many did so by filling out forms that asked them to explain their “accomplishments” as riders.”

Others were handpicked by the more than 8,000 yellow-jacketed guides, mostly elderly retirees, Beijing has deployed to encourage more-orderly behavior at bus stops and subways. Read the rest of this entry »