Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shanghai Updates Its Seven Don'ts

A sign depicting possible trash projectiles in Hongkou, Shanghai, singularly focuses on a "don't litter" message. But that is not enough for a sign at the Simingli Leisure Plaza in Huangpu, Shanghai. It adds six more "don'ts.

"The Seven Don'ts" ("'七不' 规范") sign at Simingli Leisure Plaza (四明里休闲广场) in Shanghai, China

Similar signs can be found elsewhere in Shanghai. Rob Schmitz mentions these Seven Don'ts and other numbered lists in his book "Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road":
A government-issued publication, How to Be a Lovely Shanghainese lacked the charm of Hartley's Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette. Its chapters were sprinkled with laundry lists of behavior modification, steeped in the Chinese obsession with numerology: "Five kinds of consciousness," "four kinds of spirit," "five dares," and "four forevers." There were also the Seven Don'ts: "Don't spit; don't litter; don't damage public property; don't damage greenery; don't jaywalk; don't smoke in public areas; don't utter vulgar words."

Still, Shanghai's government failed to realize its ambitious goals by the time the world's fair came around [in 2010]. Public property remained largely undamaged, but other than that lone abided restriction, I commonly saw locals do these don'ts within minutes of walking down the Street of Eternal Happiness.

The Shanghai government first promoted the Seven Don'ts in 1995 and earlier this year sought feedback for an updated list (link in Chinese). The resulting new Seven Don'ts list (link in Chinese) includes a couple of old favorites but also reflects some of the change Shanghai has experienced over the past 20 years. I haven't found any official English translations, so I will share my own interpretations along with some brief commentary.

1. Don't jaywalk.
  • Jaywalking is common in Shanghai, but it is notable what isn't mentioned: the drivers of vehicles, particularly smaller types, who regularly ignore traffic signals (or non-jaywalking pedestrians), perhaps to a greater degree.

2. Don't park or stop vehicles indiscriminately.
  • I will place the bicycle which recently caused me to walk into wet concrete in this category. I am reminded of the many other times I have seen people stop / park a vehicle in a manner which impedes other vehicles or pedestrians, even when ample out-of-the-way space exists.

3. Don't litter.
  • This is an area where I have seen a lot of change over the past 10 years in Shanghai. There seems to be much less litter these days. Shanghai isn't satisfied though.

4. Don't let pets disturb neighbors.
  • This added rule presumably results in large part from the increase in dog ownership in China.

5. Don't waste food.
  • I am now tempted to explain why I don't think cleaning off your plate means you didn't waste food. This isn't meant as commentary specific to Shanghai or China, and I will save it for another day.

6. Don't create a disturbance when speaking.

7. Don't cut in line.
  • The rule seems to assume there's a clear line in the first place, which isn't always the case. But this is another area where I have seen a lot of change in China. People are now more likely to stand in a line and not cut, though sometimes that can be due to structures which make it difficult to do otherwise. Still, examples of people cutting are easy to see.

There is much, much more I could say about each of these don'ts — material for some future posts. It would be fascinating to hear opinions about this new set of rules and suggestions for other rules from a representative slice of Shanghai's people. Undoubtedly, many have their own ideas about what behaviors they would most like to see changed.

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