BEIJING — In China's sharp-elbowed capital, where people jump lines and exhibit brusque manners, the government launched a new campaign Tuesday to encourage Beijing's 20 million residents to behave better.
Led by the Capital Civilization Office, the same bureaucrats who struggled to wipe out public spitting before the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing plans to "raise citizens' quality" before the city hosts an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit attended by President Obama and other foreign leaders in November.
Targets of the six-month campaign: people who are noisy, smoke in public, curse at sports events, fail to line up for buses, run red lights, drink while they drive and drive aggressively.
Beijingers should also dress properly, show grace in speech and manner and say "hello", "thank you" and "sorry" more often.
The challenges to change deeply ingrained behavior seem Olympian and penalties for non-compliance are weak or non-existent. Even so, Han Longbin, deputy director of the Capital Civilization Office, said the new effort would build on the "immense results" of the Olympic manners campaign six years ago.
"Building civilization is not something that can be done in a single day," said Han, who claimed that city residents now spit much less than before and are better at lining up. Authorities will employ "guidance, education and relevant laws and regulations," including fines, he said, although some of the targeted transgressions are not illegal or carry minimal fines.
The civility campaign will be publicized online, in state-run media, on street posters and through other familiar moves from the Communist Party's propaganda playbook: mass pledges, school competitions and the selection of role models.
Pedestrian Xu Fei, 30, welcomed the new effort Tuesday but did not expect quick results. In central Beijing, Xu waited at a crosswalk while four cars drove through, including one that sped up just to stop her from crossing first. "Drivers should learn to yield to pedestrians and other drivers," said Xu, an office administrator. "There are many areas of civilized behavior to improve, but it's getting better with each generation."
The courtesy campaign is part of a broader effort to portray Beijing in a positive image. The city government has invested heavily to spruce up the northeastern district of Huairou, where the APEC leaders will meet. Whole villages have been moved to accommodate new highways, buildings and landscaping.
After frequent complaints overseas about the behavior of Chinese tourists, many who traveled abroad for the first time, the government issued handbooks of advice for travelers, such as speaking more quietly.
Wang Tao, leader of the Green Woodpeckers, a civic volunteer group, said the campaign "is necessary to guide citizens to do good things, and the 'model' citizens will provide good examples." Although the Olympics improved Beijing's environment, "some people still litter, or spit, and run red lights, because a few people still only care about their own interests," said Wang.
His group, now 2,000 strong, organizes litter cleanups, gives school lectures on the environment and tries to dissuade jaywalkers. "The government plays the main role of fining people, but it takes the whole society to change," he said.
Contributing: Sunny Yang