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Friday, June 13, 2014

Legislating Civilization Chinese-Style: The Tale of Two Cities

In June, 2014, the “Capital Civilization Office” in the Chinese Government began a half-year campaign to “encourage Beijing’s 20 million residents to behave better.”[1] Targets include “people who are noisy, smoke in public, curse at sports events, fail to line up for buses, run red lights, drink while they drive, and drive aggressively.” It seems to me this list could equally apply to Miami, and, at least in terms of driving, to the entire Northeast coastline of the United States. Perhaps urban modernity is to blame, or maybe it is simply the old truism pertaining to the rise and fall of great empires, and thus to cities as well. Chinese history is no stranger to this cycle in the form of a succession of dynasties. Perhaps we would be wise to view the modern city in such terms too.

[1] For this quote and all others in this essay: Calum MacLeod, “Be More Polite, Beijing Residents Told,” USA Today, June 11, 2014.