Author: Zuo Jiang Cao
Image Souce: Souhu
Once upon a time, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began to evaluate Sanitary City and Civilized City. This wave even reached the small county (a third/fourth-tier county) where I lived. The entire population in that county was mobilized by the CCP to participate in this “glorious” movement.
Very quickly, the city had new street lights restored, outdated billboards removed, and store signs replaced. All the trees along the major streets were decorated with festive red lanterns, walls had been distinctly painted with the essential twenty-four words that made up the socialist core values, and with mega slogans erected on traffic circles and roundabouts visible from afar, together they were like a red ocean of my childhood memories.
During that time, every corner in the county seemed to be undergoing constant sanitation, with sweepers and sprinklers flowing incessantly, and the number of cleaners in orange uniforms was dramatically more than usual. On top of that, often a group of three or five volunteers clad in red vests could be seen throughout the county, carrying plastic bags and holding fire-pit tongs, picking up every piece of garbage they could possibly found, leaving no stone unturned. Traffic police and urban management officers were busy seizing illegally parked vehicles and dispersing street vendors. In particular, vehicles must give way to pedestrians (a rule that was not duly followed in China). As a result, rear-end collisions became a daily phenomenon at busy intersections.
Even the countryside started its own sanitizing initiatives, such as sweeping all the courtyards and alleyways, cleaning up the rivers and ditches. Almost turning villages into cities, no more free-ranged ducks and chicks could be seen pacing leisurely around, and no more pigs and cows lying in the alleyways sunbathing. And flowers were implanted in both the front yard and the backyard of the houses, making it a “veritable” country garden.
Naturally, the cab industry was a key area of focus for it is a city’s name card. Besides that the driver must not violate the traffic regulations, they were put on high alert as they must perform satisfactorily in front of the “mystery passengers” of the Review and investigation team dispatched by the CCP. The cab drivers were expected to provide a standard answer to some passengers’ questions.
For example, if a passenger asked, “How is your business?” The standard answer shall be: “Under the leadership of the county government, people’s living standards have improved in the past few years, more people travel by taxi now, we are a tourist city, there are many tourists, so business is quite good.” Each cab driver must wear a red “Civility Advisor” armband, to supervise civilized speech and behavior inside the car. Finally, a stern warning was given to them: “If any cab caused a problem and jeopardized the building of the Civilized City, their license plate would be suspended and their operations shall cease”.
Some retired people from the community and villages were mobilized to go through the streets, alleyways, and into private residents to examine, to pick up the garbage and check hygiene corners and promote the significance of “building civility and sanitation”, requiring everyone to recite the twenty-four words of core values. Not to mention school children, who had to memorize every day before they can go home, and high school students were even pulled out from their classes from time to time to assist in raiding and cleaning up the so-called “tough sites”.
Tens of thousands of people were fully engaged in the sanitary campaign for the most part of the year in order to welcome the Review and Investigation Team. When the final review comes, it was like facing a great enemy in the ultimate battle, as if everyone’s life being was at risk. During that period, the streets were filled with people wearing red armbands more than ever from early morning to late at night without interruption. County leaders even joined the cab drivers’ WeChat group to directly command the team. They selected drivers who were well-spoken and with a better appearance to cruise down the designated road, just waiting to pick up the highly important “mysterious passengers”…
Cab drivers were well informed in advance that there were three members of the Investigation Team, two men and one woman, their respective age, physical characteristics, clothing color and style. Messages came in from time to time on the phone: who got on the car, which car they got on, which direction to go, and where to get off, what question had been asked of the driver, how the driver answered the question… hence absolutely everything was under the control of the leadership.
After dinner, a few people from the community came to my house to notify us that the Investigation Team was now on their way to our neighborhood so get prepared. My car was parked in the alleyway so I must clear the path. Since there was no parking lot nearby, I could only drive to a friend’s place in the country for some tea just to kill time. Later when I later returned home that evening and asked my mother if the team had visited our place. Mother said yes, except they just had a quick look and left. By then my mom could recite the twenty-four words, but pity they did not ask her. Looking at mother’s disappointed face, inside of me could only sigh deeply…
Not surprisingly, after a few months of anxious waiting, our county has finally been crowned with the title of “Sanitary and Civilized City”, and there was much rejoicing across the board. In the few years that followed, the county tried its very best to maintain this honor, and secure this prestigious hat on its head. The city is indeed cleaner, decorated with blooming flowers all year round, scrub trucks run more cheerfully, and the red ocean surely appears another shade brighter.
In recent years, numerous high-rise properties have been built around the city and even in the remote countryside. Many outsiders who came and bought properties to settle down here all appraised the environment being nice, and the city being clean and tidy, and how they envy the local residents living in such an environment. But with all honesty, I know the lives of ordinary people have not improved and the standard of living in substance has not risen as it may have appeared at the outset.
The articulately designed layout by the CCP was just to seize the land from the ordinary people to enrich their own pocket. County leaders and so-called investigators played both the director and actor roles using a unified script, a farce that only they can truly understand and appreciate. Ordinary people, regardless of whether they could see through it or not, were merely extras on this set. And as extras, they had to run around and fully cooperate with the CCP, to the extent that they were so exhausted they even lost the time and ability to think.
The CCP never needed to worry about the cost of their props or their cast as they are used to squander laobaixing’s hard-earned money at will. Yet the poor extras were always expected to work hard and volunteer at their own costs. When the curtain comes down, there will be more famous directors and actors to hand out the awards to the full cast, and allowing them an even bigger stage to showcase their acting skills next. Such is how the CCP regime rules the country by falsehood.
(The content of the article represents the views of the author only)