Why Kids Keep Crapping in Public in China

Illustration for article titled Why Kids Keep Crapping in Public in China
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Every week, it seems like photos of someone, often little kids, crapping in public appear online in China. This usually creates all kinds of havoc, often with people criticizing the parents (or grandparents) for letting the kids do their business in a public place. But why does it keep happening?

Note: this story contains a subject matter some readers might find uncomfortable.

The vast majority of public crapping in China appears to be limited to kids, but a small number of adults also do it—though they tend to be far more discrete.

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In the countryside, outhouses still exist, and the cities have made leaps and bounds in public restrooms (especially in the years leading up to the Beijing Olympics). However, many toilets in the cities can get dodgy. Below is a public toilet in Beijing with warning signs:


Illustration for article titled Why Kids Keep Crapping in Public in China
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Historically, there has been a dearth of toilets in China. What's more, diapers have traditionally been expensive, and crotchless pants were seen as an acceptable solution.

Against this backdrop, if parents can't find a toilet in, say, Guangzhou's subway stations, they might see the subway platform, or the subway itself, as a viable alternative. But on an airplane? Which has clearly marked toilets?

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Diapers are still expensive in China, so middle-class parents can purchase them for their children, but you still see crotchless pants in all manner places—from shopping malls to the Forbidden Palace. What's more, if grandparents are watching after the kid, they might be more inclined, because of the circumstances they grew up in, to let the kids go in public. Some kids, as they become teens, don't ween themselves off this way of thinking and do their business when they're out in public. It does reflect on their parents—something that people online in China are quick to point out when criticizing this behavior.

Illustration for article titled Why Kids Keep Crapping in Public in China
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A few years ago, I interviewed a famous industrial designer for a magazine. He's Japanese—not Chinese—and we did not once talk about defecating in public. However, we did talk about this theory that humans have a natural relationship with things. For example, if you have trash in your hand, and you see a bicycle with a basket, you might pitch it in the bicycle's basket. This is littering and isn't socially acceptable, but that bicycle basket does resemble a waste paper basket, and instinctively you might use it for that. Going to the bathroom in public place, perhaps, works on a similar rationale—especially since a Guangzhou subway bin does resemble a toilet. Somewhat.

But China is changing. For people in the country's urban middle and upper classes, going to the bathroom in public is increasingly not socially acceptable as it is in more rural areas. When photos, like this recent one of a teen pooping in a trash can, hit the internet, people get upset. Eventually, these social views will continue to filter through society. Norms will continue to change, just as the country continues to change, and these public toilet displays will gradually fade away.

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(Top photo: DiscoDad | Shutterstock)


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

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DISCUSSION

sicklyslick
sicklyslick

i lived in china for 9 years. (live in canada now for 13 years) and honestly i've never see anyone taking a dump in public. i lived in tian jin. it is about 30-1hr away from beijing. one of the biggest cities in the country. crotchless pants for kids, yes. but i never seen them in public. people bring their kids out with proper PANTS with crotches. as for diapers, those kids probably weren't wearing them. i'm not sure how a parent would respond to their kid crapping in their pants. but i definitely did not see crotchless pants babies. also, remember this is 13 YEARS ago. the living conditions in china has risen exponentially since back in 2000. I have been back in china twice. once in '07 and once in 2010. again, did not see anyone doing business in public and whatnot. the air is definitely more polluted and theres a ton of cars.

also, beijing subway is quite nice, definitely cleaner than downtown toronto or NYC. the subway connections under grand central smelled like urine. however, i only been on beijing subway near downtown beijing (taianmen square/forbidden city), so the govnt probably cleaned up nicely around there.

as for the public restroom, they are horrible. i really dont suggest going there. a restaurant restroom is much better. on the topic of restaurant restroom, it really depend on location. a vast majority of washrooms smell really bad. but good restaurants usually have clean washrooms (still smell bad!). probably something to do with ventilation and stuff.

this being my only bias comment: imo, i find northerners have more class than southeners. (guangzhou being south)