China’s ‘toilet revolution’ in its third year

On a related matter, China’s ‘toilet revolution’ seems to be gaining traction in its third year. Launched by Xi Jinping in April, 2017, it initially focused on tourist areas. And given the sheer size of China, this involved a significant amount of cash. There have even been toilet revolution conferences, with the second one held in Beijing earlier this year.

But the program has now expanded to rural areas, where – as I have experienced – a toilet is often a hole in the ground beneath two planks. Here the revolution has faced some challenges, as a story in Xinhua reports:

However, officials claim convincing rural residents to change their toilets is a challenge. “Most villagers are used to their way of using the toilet. It is hard to change,” said Wang Zhigang, Communist Party secretary in Tanggou Township in northern Jiangsu.

Farmers collect feces to be composted on their farmland. If they use flush toilets, no compost will be left behind. Dry toilets with tanks bring the extra task of regular cleaning.

“We had to build a few toilets first and take villagers to visit, and then encourage them to build new ones,” he said. Slogans such as “sanitary toilets improve lives” are painted on walls of rural homes. TV stations are told to air videos promoting the use of better toilet facilities.

Why change an age-old practice? Hygiene obviously, and disease reduction, since easily preventable diseases are still  a problem in the poorer western areas of China. Obviously, it is also part of the poverty reduction program, since health is directly related to economic and social wellbeing.

As is the way in China with such incentives, you now find people devoting their lives to the cause. An example is Qian Jun, a successful businessman who had a life-changing health scare in 2011. Since then, ‘China’s Mr Toilet‘ has given up his business and focused on improving facilities at schools and in remote rural areas, such as Tibet where below zero temperatures require specifically designed facilities.

I must say that I hope one feature of the older style toilet does not disappear – their communal nature. In some places, you can join your neighbours in the local communal toilet. There are no barriers between the squat toilets, so you can crouch, enjoy a smoke and chat with the neighbours about the day, life, and so on.


More on China’s poverty relief program

These news stories are worth following, concerning China’s ongoing poverty relief program. It is a cornerstone of the preparations for a transition to the ‘moderately prosperous, well-off and peaceful society’ (xiaokang shehui) – in other words, the second stage of socialism. I have mentioned some of these earlier (herehere and here), but the latest appears on Xinhua news, along with a video explanation. More than 700 million lifted out of poverty so far, about 40 million to go by 2021.

Out soon: Stalin: From Theology to the Philosophy of Socialism in Power

My book on Stalin will be published soon by Springer Beijing. This book was far more work than usual, since it required a a complete rebuilding of my categories of analysis, from the ground up. It has also provided the basis for my current project on ‘Socialism in Power‘. In other words, it is arguably the most significant study for the development of my thought.


It is due out in October, but preliminary details can be found on the Springer website, here and on Amazon.

Endorsements come from Zhang Shuangli, from Fudan University, and Domenico Losurdo, from the University of Urbino:

Starting from a sympathetic attitude toward socialism in power, this book provides us with an extremely insightful interpretation of Stalin’s philosophy of socialism. It is not only a successful academic effort to re-articulate Stalin’s philosophy, but also a creative effort to understand socialism in power in the context of both the former Soviet Union and contemporary China.

——- Zhang Shuangli, Professor of Marxist philosophy, Fudan University

Boer’s book, far from both “veneration” and “demonization” of Stalin, throws new light on the classic themes of Marxism and the Communist Movement: language, nation, state, and the stages of constructing post-capitalist society. It is an original book that also pays great attention to the People’s Republic of China, arising from the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, and which is valuable to those who, beyond the twentieth century, want to understand the time and the world in which we live.

——-Domenico Losurdo, University of Urbino, Italy, author of Stalin: The History and Critique of a Black Legend