Since we arrived in China, The Family and I have been surprised by how clean the cities are. There is no obvious reason for it. The Chinese spit on the street, like Indians. They generate large amounts of garbage, like all other countries. Street food vendors leave behind trash which is gone by the morning.
The Chinese do not litter as much as Indians do: handbills and empty water bottles are deposited into litter bins, which you can find in cities at every hundred paces or less. But the typical Chinese is not dedicated to keeping the city clean. So why are they clean?
Standing in Tian’anmen Square and watching the scene in the photo above, I had an epiphany. It is because the government knows that it is their job to keep cities clean. The municipal government invests large amounts of money in the infrastructure of cleanliness: the garbage cans along the street with bin liners in each, the huge army of cleaners constantly at work, the carts and other instruments they use. This is the big difference.
It is not the common man’s job to clean the city. In China you do not find ministers with broom in hand setting an example to the people. It is the government’s job, and the common man is only expected to give minimal help, like depositing litter in designated places.
Why do the people keep their side of the bargain? Because the government makes it easy. Why do the people not steal bins off the streets? Why do the civic employees not embezzle the city of bin liners? I presume the answer to both questions is that laws are enforced.
Just two simple things is enough to change a country.