You can accuse the Chinese of many things but never of inhospitality. And with an important visitor such as President Clinton, authorities are doing everything in their power to make sure nothing goes wrong.
One thing that could go horribly wrong would be for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to need to use the restroom during her visit to the Great Wall on Saturday, a side trip planned while her husband is conducting important matters of state with Chinese leaders.As anyone who has used the public facilities at the Great Wall - or indeed, almost anywhere in China - would understand, that could cause Hillary Clinton a great deal of discomfort and might also seriously tarnish China's image in the eyes of a very important person.
So local authorities have built the first lady her own Western-style toilet, with a seat and air-conditioning, which means it will rank, without a doubt, among the most regal restrooms in China.
It will also rank her alongside former President Richard Nixon as one of only two Americans in history to be so honored in China. Nixon's facility was constructed for his ground-breaking visit in 1972 alongside the route leading to the Wall, because his Chinese hosts fretted about the diplomatic fallout that might occur should Nixon need to make a stop on the way. It was demolished when the road was widened.
Although China has made huge strides toward modernization since Nixon's visit, it still trails the rest of the world in the standards of its toilets, and the Chinese did not want Hillary Clinton to be shocked by those provided to regular tourists, explained Zhao Chen, vice bureau chief of the Badaling Great Wall Cleaning Supervision Department.
The toilet's $23,000 price tag - about 30 times the average Beijinger's annual income - was worth it, he said, to show "how much we honor and respect her visit."