'Toilet revolution': China has its sight set on reforming its bathrooms

Key Points
  • China is focusing on enhancing public toilet facilities as part of a "toilet revolution"
  • The drive will improve living standards and give local tourism a boost, state media said
  • Around $3 billion has been spent on the campaign to improve toilets in the country
Wang Zhao | AFP | Getty Images

Amid sweeping new regulations that have targeted everything from financial market liberalization to tightening internet controls, China has its sight set on reforming one additional domain: its toilets.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday brought attention to a national drive to upgrade toilets in the country by calling for sustained efforts in building clean restrooms in both urban and rural areas, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Xi said that doing so would boost the domestic tourism sector as well as standards of living, Xinhua added.

Launched in 2015 by the local tourism administration, China's three-year "toilet revolution" plan has reportedly resulted in 20 billion yuan ($3.03 billion) being sunk into installing and improving 68,000 toilets located at tourist destinations across the country, according to the China Daily.

Upgrading those facilities was important even though toilets were a "seemingly petty issue," a Xinhua editorial said.

That was because some public restroom facilities in rural regions remained "little more than makeshift shelters surrounded by bunches of cornstalks, while others [were] open pits next to pigsties," leading to unhygienic living conditions.

According to state mouthpiece Xinhua, Xi had spoken to rural residents about the standards of toilets in the countryside and later reiterated that hygienic toilet facilities were needed to build a "new countryside."

Aside from improving sanitation, the campaign also aimed to increase the number of "three-star-rated" public toilets at popular tourist areas, the China National Tourism Administration previously said. According to authorities, toilets are given star ratings based on some 58 variables, including ventilation, background music and whether or not toilet paper is provided.

The call for clean toilets also gives a boost to the growing domestic tourism industry as unhygienic restrooms had "long been a big put-off for visitors," Xinhua said.

Xi also reportedly called for enhanced public facilities to be built to support development in domestic tourism, a move that plays into Beijing's years-long attempt to rebalance its economy from a manufacturing-led model to one driven by services.

Ahead, China intends to build or renovate 64,000 toilets at tourist sites between 2018 and 2020 according to local media.