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Will ‘Beijing bikini’ disappear through crackdown?

Posted July. 10, 2019 07:38,   

Updated July. 10, 2019 07:38


Korean small business owners in Wangjing, Beijing, where many Koreans live, are suffering much trouble recently. The Beijing municipal government has ordered a removal of unlicensed building extensions in order to maintain urban landscapes.

Business owners have lost some part of their stores from a forced removal of unlicensed structures or had to close their stores, which were unlicensed structures built inside park. Although the demolition work is not targeted at Korean business owners, it is doubtful why the city government is suddenly cracking down on unlicensed structures after overlooking the issue for a long time. In the winter of 2017, the city government launched a campaign to demolish all the illegal construction in the city’s low-income area called Daxing, after a fire broke out in a cramped apartment building and killed 19 people. The city government was criticized for evicting the people in the middle of winter.

The Chinese authorities are now targeting Chinese middle-aged men going topless in public places. The sight of topless men striding down the street in high summer is nothing new to those who have ever visited China. There is a nickname for these men rolling their T-shirts up, exposing their bellies to cool down: “Beijing bikini.” Authorities in Tenjin, Shenyang, and Jinan announced that they will crack down such “uncivilized behavior” of going topless in public places. They added that those who violate the ban will be subject to the fine of between 50 yuan and 200 yuan (8,500-34,000 won).

After the announcement was made, Xiakedao, a social media platform run by the official People's Daily newspaper, posted an article titled, “Bye, Beijing bikini!” on Saturday. The article made a humorous comparison by saying topless men in Chinese classical novels such as “Samkukji” (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and “The Water Margin” are depicted as courageous and brave. “In the history of long famine, poverty, and war, the common people in China did not have enough resources to avoid the summer heat. They had no choice but to take their shirt off to cool down. If one’s way of adapting to the environment can be called civilization or culture, we cannot call our topless “comrades” uncivilized, the article argued. But it acknowledged the need for the removal of “Beijing bikini.” “Behaviors that no one cared about in the past cannot be tolerated today since our society has advanced,” the article pointed out. “Basic etiquettes should be followed in public places.”

The city of Shanghai made separate garbage collection a mandatory from this month. Those who violate it are fined between 50 yuan and 300 yuan. The new rule has thrown the people of Shanghai into confusion. On social media, people are even using pigs as a standard of recycling: “They’re wet garbage if pigs can eat them. They’re dry garbage if pigs can’t eat them. They’re noxious garbage if pigs could die from eating them. They’re recyclable garbage if they can be exchanged for pigs.”

“Social mobilization is important for successful separate garbage collection and a law needs a tooth (called crackdown). Civilization can be earned through crackdown,” Chinese state television CCTV commented on Tuesday. It seems China is realizing that it lacks soft power, in other words it appears less appealing from outside. But it will not be easy to achieve the goal through excessive control just like a Xiakedao post, which says “Beijing bikini won’t go away overnight. It’d be better if we go with the flow rather than trying to stop it all at once.”

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com