During the past few years, Luzhou has been working toward becoming a National Civilized City. This prestigious honor ranks a city as being economically, environmentally, politically and socially excellent.
The movement itself began in 2003, with 10 cities chosen to hold this title: Xiamen, Qingdao, Dalian, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Baotou, Zhongshan, Yantai, Langfang and Zhangjiagang. This formal recognition means that the named city or district can hold the title while continuing to ‘civilize’ itself over the following three- to four-year period, when they will be re-evaluated and can possibly lose their status if they do poorly.
Cities wishing to win this name must apply to participate (not all cities want to bother) and pass 126 various assessments, including inspection visits by outside invigilators.
What sort of criteria is needed? Here are a few: good sanitation, pollution control, pleasing appearance, friendly, helpful residents, and a strict following of national and city laws.
About the Evaluation: Strict and Serious!!
Civilized City contests take place every 3 years. The Spiritual Civilization Commission sets standards and selection procedures for National Civilized Cities at all levels of government administration.
Evaluation of all city candidates is the responsibility of the City Investigation Team of the National Bureau of Statistics . Team members sign non-disclosure agreements and are assigned to cities where they have no conflicts of interest. Their task is to evaluate the goals and achievements of urban civilization policies. Evaluators learn of their assignments when they are en route to the airport. They then open a confidential envelope specifying their destination and field sites.
Like restaurant critics, they carry out their work incognito, posing as ordinary tourists. They stay in three-star hotels and travel by taxi to observe conditions in major commercial streets and at traffic junctions, in hospitals and markets, as well as some fifty randomly selected sites. They try public telephones, and ride public buses to tabulate how many people do, and do not, give up their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, the disabled and children. All visits are unannounced, including neighbourhood visits during which they interview residents about their participation rates in local activities.
Luzhou: Getting Ready for the Big Inspection
Luzhou’s first inspection took place in April of 2018. I have no idea about the secretive nature described above for that first assessment because it was far from secretive.
The Luzhou government officials knew several weeks before the inspectors’ arrival and made sure we all knew as well. The entire city went into overdrive beautifying public places by planting more trees, creating pristine mini-parks and cleaning up eye-sore neighborhoods. TV channels and newspapers chastised citizens, car drivers and public government officials alike who didn’t follow proper procedures.
For example, pedestrians had to walk in crosswalks, not litter or spit in public. All citizens had to be openly kind and helpful to one another. Drivers had to slow down considerably and taxies were not allowed to pick up numerous passengers to take to different destinations all at one time, then charge bargained amounts without paying attention to the meter. (This has been a standard in the past 3 years, meaning the taxi drivers can make more money.). Slogans on billboards and fancy, colorful signs popped up at every corner, touting: “Love your Country; Take Pride in Your City; Be Kind, Cultured and Civilized.”
Also a continuous reminder, via the media, was of China’s 12 Core Socialist Values, those designated by the Communist Party which all people were to know and earnestly follow: prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity, and friendship.
In fact, these values had to be quickly spouted out, without hesitation, if any inspector stopped a Luzhou citizen to ask what they were. Points were deducted if someone faltered, or so we were told by media outlets.
A good week before the inspection, I remember the teachers, workers, students and administrators randomly stopping to test one another with: “Can you say the 12 core values?”. While there were light-hearted giggles and laughs then this happened, I will say that everyone took this seriously and every single person I quizzed could, indeed, rattle of their core values at the drop of a hat.
Inspection Two: A Visit to Our Campus
A second inspection took place city-wide last Dec. 21 – 27. This was to see what improvements the city had made from the first inspection, which listed problem areas.
This time around, not only did we know when the invigilators were coming but where they’d be. Their visit impacted my college more than others in Luzhou because the school was scheduled as a definite inspection site.
For a week, the college leaders, teachers and students prepared and practiced for this inspection in order to receive high marks, which would be added to the city’s evaluation score.
Student dormitories and departmental offices were thoroughly cleaned and new rules instated about the condition of the dorm rooms. Everything had to be tidy and put in its proper place. No messy desks or unmade beds.
Students were also not allowed to hang up their wet clothing (undies, pants, socks, shirts, shoes), after being washed, to dry on their dormitory balconies. If they did so, they would be in deep trouble and subject to harsh chastising and reprimands by head teachers, checking their rooms before the real inspectors came. With no driers available, this was somewhat of a sore spot among the students who always hung out their clothes to dry. That’s the drying-clothes standard in China, for all of us, so not being able to do so (at least until after the inspection) created a lot of grumbling and mutterings.
No students were allowed to lazily hang out in their dorms but had to be visibly seen studying diligently in classrooms or the library. School grounds had to be impeccable.
Student representatives, in orange vests, lined the college sidewalks, walkways and roads to direct student traffic (no jay-walking) and catch litterers.
Administrative paperwork for every department had to be readied for review and all school facilities had to be in proper working order.
The day of the inspection had everyone on edge. Even I was called to task for putting a desk into the hallway as a sign-up table for my conversation final exams.
“Not allowed, Connie!” I was told by a panicked teacher. “Please, move it immediately into the classroom. The inspectors are on their way.”
I did so in a hurry. I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for our school receiving demerit points!
I heard that the second inspection was a great success throughout Luzhou and our college, although I still have no idea if the city gained the title or not. I believe more evolution is still in the works.
I will say that, while it was nice to see the city’s citizens come together in a common goal, it didn’t last for long.
As soon as the inspectors left, everything went back to normal, including jaywalking, littering, speeding, pushing and shoving while in lines and other undesirable qualities which everyone had kept in check until there was no need to do so.
I guess that’s what civilized people do when not watched: misbehave!
Quite an interesting event, this National Civilized City movement. It caused quite a stir in December and I’m sure the next inspection will be just as stressful.
Until next posting, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.