Xi Jinping plans to revolutionise China’s toilets to boost tourism

Modern, western-style lavatories deemed part of progress in Chinese quality of life

March of progress: Public toilet in Beijing with wifi, an ATM machine and chargers for mobile phones and electric vehicles. Photograph: AFP/Getty

China's president Xi Jinping wants unswerving efforts to upgrade the nation's lavatories as part of a "toilet revolution" and called for a major upgrade to facilities to boost domestic tourism and improve quality of life.

“The toilet issue is no small thing, it’s an important aspect of building civilised cities and countryside,” Mr Xi was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.

Last month, Mr Xi became the most powerful leader since chairman Mao Zedong at a party congress in the capital, and his philosophy, "Xi Jinping Thought", was enshrined in the constitution. A key part of Mr Xi's policy is creating a moderately affluent society and improving quality of life, which chimes with the "toilet revolution" he is pushing.

China has made great advances in recent years, but as many visitors to the country can attest, a trip to the toilet can be challenging, even terrible.


Walking through the otherwise charming hutong alleyways in summertime in the capital can involve regular piercing attacks on your olfactory system.

Public conveniences

Although western-style seating loos are becoming more common, most public toilets, especially in the countryside, are squat-style holes in the ground with no running water or toilet paper.

In Chinese toilets, paper is deposited in bins rather than flushed, because older plumbing systems are not designed to cope with paper.

Mr Xi said the construction of clean toilets was a key part of efforts to boost urban and rural civilisation. According to Xinhua, Mr Xi would always ask local residents in rural areas about the condition of their toilets, saying clean facilities were crucial for building a “new countryside”.

By the end of October, authorities had installed or upgraded 68,000 toilets at tourist destinations, 19.3 per cent higher than the figure targeted in Mr Xi’s “toilet revolution”.

A further 64,000 toilets are due to be built at tourist destinations from 2018 to 2020, according to an action plan released by the China National Tourism Administration.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing