Huai’an effort falls short once again

Huai’an did not make it past the 5th round of the country’s “National Civilized Cities” competition. The unfortunate news, delivered on September 14 by the National Central Civilization Office, made it official that the city had failed once again to achieve its overall goal.

A poster for the “Building a National Civilized City” on Huai’an street has served as an indicator on how long the city has entertained the idea of winning the national title.

The “National Civilized Cities” title is the most difficult to obtain within the arena of establishing the image of a city. It is the highest form of recognition a city can receive in China. The process involves an analysis of a wide range of factors related to a city’s economy and environment, along with sanitation facilities, citizen behavior and overall satisfaction with the quality of life that comes with living in such a place.

Huai’an’s municipal government has heavily emphasized the importance of building a civilized city, when really their only goal is to win the title. Unfortunately their efforts have been criticized as being too formalistic and “movement-type.” Now to be fair, there were few things carried out, such as their anti-prostitution drive, which was without a doubt an impressive move on their behalf.

In order to enforce such difficult challenges, over the course of a few months, Huai’an police conducted several raids on the so-called “dirty” establishments which included “massage parlors,” in an effort to rid the city of “uncivilized behavior.” The police also focused on other harmful behavior such as jaywalking.

It was believed that taking such measures to protect people and eliminate criminal activity would serve as a positive influence on the overall behavior of the city’s citizens. But in areas that went unnoticed, the local government or relevant authorities could have done a much better job.

For example, the city’s hospitals have become notorious for how poorly they treat their patients. There are some doctors who are modest and kind, but there others who happen to be arrogant for absolutely no reason at all. And to make matters worse, hospital officials routinely ignore the poor behavior and attitudes that characterize the majority of doctors who work there. There are even times when it’s impossible to find a guestbook in order to submit a formal complaint for the sole purpose of improving the quality of care required at any hospital. Today, the relationship between doctor and patient is so strained and uncomfortable it’s now evolved into an embarrassing travesty of medical care in the modern age.

Another example that proved to be a failure was the public use of electric quadricycles. This unique and yet dangerous transport vehicle has four wheels and a steering wheel, similar to the electric car, and yet a license is not required to drive one on the city’s open roads. And if that wasn’t enough, in a move that challenges the fundamental principles of rational thought, those who drive the quadricycles are under no obligation to obey the traffic laws.

Today these vehicles are running recklessly all over the city. They are typically driven by the elderly, or mothers on their way to pick up their children from school, and unfortunately neither one of these groups knows how to drive, thus making the streets that much more dangerous.

These vehicles are strictly prohibited in larger cities all over China and yet strangely enough they’re allowed on the streets of Huai’an. And in a further twist of irony the new district of Hongze, which was a county last year, officials there impounded every electric quadricycle it could find, while older districts, especially those located within the economic development zone, ignored the potential dangers that these vehicles create.

It appears Huai’an has a long way to go before it can honestly achieve the national status it has long desired.  But when you really think about it, the most important thing that should be addressed by the city’s authorities has to do with maintaining a deeper concern on the safety and health of the people who live here, rather than focusing on numbers, charts and indexes.