When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

China

No Money For Schools Or Hospitals, But Here's A Free Haircut Instead

Authorities in Shenzen, China are offering a slew of free services such as shoe shining and haircuts. But this is not most citizens' idea of urgent public reform.

Haircut anyone? ( J Solomon)
Haircut anyone? ( J Solomon)

SHENZHEN - A few days ago, the city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, announced it was setting up a voluntary force of 500 public servants to provide more and better public services to its residents. The services include free haircuts, "wine quality identification," "food safety knowledge," and electronics repair services. There are also free shoe shines.

The announcement prompted an intense public discussion. Some people were enthusiastic about the project but most were just downright angry.

How could they dislike such a generous initiative? It" all about semantics - and a general wariness when it comes to authorities. In Cantonese, the phrase "shoe polishing" is the same as "patting the horse's bottom," meaning to flatter or kiss-up to someone. Shenzhen citizens are saying that "the patting has fallen on the horse's leg," which means they do not appreciate the municipality's idea at all.

A majority believe that if civil servants did their jobs properly and politely, people would be grateful. For them, this shoe polishing idea is just another political show.

It's not at all surprising that Shenzhen authorities received such a hostile reaction. On the surface one might think the public is just fed up with bureaucracy, but the underlying cause is much deeper. This is about accumulated frustrations and dissatisfaction with public service.

Last week, the biggest news was about local farms in Shenzhen feeding psychotropic drugs to chickens. The Chinese press publishes food security stories almost every day. The vital problems associated with daily life, along with school and hospital shortages, are in strong contrast to the privileged situation of public servants and the rampant corruption of officials.

According to reports, the voluntary force initiative comes from Shenzhen's Political Work Department, a political agency under the control of China's Central Military Commission. In an Internet and market economy where Chinese people's civic conscience is awakening, such initiatives just prove how obsolete and ridiculous the authorities are.

China is in a transformation process, and social contradictions are highlighted by serious problems. If the Political Work Department's cadres need to prove their worth, they have to move into the 21st century and deal with real problems. Narrowing the public servants' distance with the masses by having a few volunteers polish people's shoes is, to put it lightly, like an adult trying to calm a crying child with candy.

Read the full story in Chinese by Hua Tic

Photo - J Solomon

*This is a digest item, not a direct translation

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Dottoré!

Sowing The Seeds Of Paranoia

"They must be dumping garbage — good, it makes for good fertilizer!"

"Slowly, we were the only ones left"

Mariateresa Fichele

"Dottoré, I know a lot of flags, and let me tell you why. I grew up in the province of Caserta, and — like everybody in those days — my parents owned a piece of land, and they would take me with them to farm it.

I remember there were other kids in the fields around us. But then, slowly, we were the only ones left because everybody was selling the land, making a lot of money off of it too.

Papà wouldn't listen to reason and he kept the land. But in the meantime, instead of farmers, trucks began to arrive. Many many trucks, unloading thousands of barrels and burying them into the ground.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ