China tries to hold back daily tidal wave of phlegm

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The Independent Online

At least 300 million Chinese are diehard spitters, say the authors of a new survey, but they are coming under mounting pressure to change their ways. From illiterate peasants to university graduates, China's spitting masses discharge a daily tidal wave of phlegm that washes from the poorest village to the richest metropolis. Yet there is new reason for optimism for anyone caught in the crossfire.

At least 300 million Chinese are diehard spitters, say the authors of a new survey, but they are coming under mounting pressure to change their ways. From illiterate peasants to university graduates, China's spitting masses discharge a daily tidal wave of phlegm that washes from the poorest village to the richest metropolis. Yet there is new reason for optimism for anyone caught in the crossfire.

Dr Victor Yuan, sociologist, reformed spitter and China's leading market researcher, conducted the survey. Dr Yuan believes the struggle against expectoration is crucial to integrating China with the outside world. "Some people accuse me of deliberately showing the dirty and ugly side of China, but I feel it's important that people begin to realise spitting is a bad habit, then they'll try to overcome it."

Fearful of negative publicity for Beijing's 2008 Olympic bid, Dr Yuan's critics are angry he published the survey results last week, just as Olympic inspectors assessed the Chinese capital's chances.

"All Chinese want Beijing to win the Olympics because it can earn some 'face' for our country in a grand way," Dr Yuan said. "But if we really care about our face, why don't we pay attention to small matters such as not spitting everywhere?" Dr Yuan's research firm, Horizon, interviewed almost 5,600 men and women, aged between 18 and 65, in villages and cities.

The American-Chinese cosmetics guru Yue-Sai Kan recently published a manifesto of manners, Etiquette for the Modern Chinese which declared: "Spitting in public is very impolite and extremely bad for the environment."

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