Monday was a local inspection day here in China’s Wuxi. The level of play-acting was heightened to an (especially) unsustainable peak on that day. The massive and dramatic orchestrations of the local government were aimed at creating a semblance of order, cleanliness and balance in a troubled mega-city of modern China.
The plan of attack for the great show was threefold:
Step 1, give the illusion of cleanliness,
Step 2, make a pretense at order, and
Step 3, have a cop occupy every street corner.
Although, it should be said that the overreaching goal of the whole production was preventing people from riding tandem on electric motor scooters. At least that was the impression that I got. This bothers me slightly because it’s one of the things I enjoy doing most here in China.
The wicked hypocrisy and short-lived aim of the play wasn’t lost on the locals either. They knew as well as I that the farce couldn’t keep up until tomorrow, let alone through that evening. By suppertime, things would pretty much revert to the normal state of loosely organized chaos.
I wouldn’t have been so rueful of such a plan, curious exercise in braggadocio that it was, except for the mysterious rationale behind it. This day was an attempt on the government’s part to prove…what exactly? That they’re capable of getting everyone to march to the same drum for a handful of hours? Possibly this, or maybe some other obscure desire that’s tied into the notion of face and how precious it is to the local shot-callers that face be preserved for any officials’ visit. Needless to say, I could never grasp the latter concept.
And like I said, such a display wouldn’t normally rankle me. I consider myself to be law-abiding. In fact, next to the general public some of my behavior might come across as staid and conservative. What really astounds me is the incredible lack of functionality behind the ‘inspection day’ routine. The clock resets to zero once the policeman steps off the corner, and bedlam* is free to reign yet again by nightfall. So really there is no practical application for this extreme coordination by the city. The officials only get to see a sterile glimpse of what the city is like on any given day; and the citizens are inconvenienced for the sake of play-acting.
*Not the dangerous kind of bedlam. It’s not like Escape from New York on the streets after dark.