China’s leader, Xi Jiping, is leading a campaign to make China a less corrupt and thriftier place. In this campaign, several high ranking officials have lost their position and been arrested, including the former security chief and former leader’s chief of staff. It appears that they have accepted large bribes and made huge amounts of money. Most of this doesn’t affect my daily life (I’m not trying to get a higher position in the government or doing anything else that could be moved along by a bribe!). But I recently saw this sign in a restaurant with the title “Warm prompt.” I am pretty sure it is also part of (or an offshoot of) this campaign.
A less dramatic form of corruption (or at least of wasting resources) is Chinese government officials ability to throw lavish dinners with huge numbers of exotic dishes. When I was teaching English to government officials sometimes they would take their teachers out to eat. I enjoyed several meals that were more extravagant than really necessary. We had a few fancy dishes (and exotic/fancy does not automatically mean delicious, at least to a foreigner’s palate) and lots more food than we needed. At such an occasion it would be rude to suggest taking the leftovers home. Lots of food was wasted. And what I’ve experienced was probably only the tip of the iceberg.
I think some of this is the reaction to having limited resources for a long time, because generally Chinese people are pretty thrifty. Since the opening and reform, more and more resources are available. It is natural to want to use them; remember the Roaring 20s. If you grew up eating a sweet potato a day, if you were lucky, it is exciting to be able to order as many dishes as you want. But now it seems Xi Jinping would like the country to be a bit more moderate in consumption, to not order more dishes than you can actually use. This sign encourages people to not order too much and to take home the leftovers. It throws in some suggestions about using less oil and salt, not smoking, and not selling alcohol to minors. I have no idea if this sign or the other such instructions are actually changing people’s habits or not. I do know that I get fewer funny looks about taking the leftovers away than when I was in Beijing over 10 years ago. At that time we kind of gave up on taking the leftovers because waitresses didn’t really get it and it was more trouble than it was worth. Now it is easy and I see others doing it too.
I hope this anti-corruption campaign will make China a fairer and safer place for everyone and as resources increase people will increasingly learn to use them well.