BEIJING Don't wear white socks with black leather shoes. Shake hands for only three seconds. Maintain eye contact for 30 to 60 percent of the conversation. Don't wear more than three colors in your clothing. And above all, please stop spitting.
China's long march to better etiquette has been under way for years, promoted zealously by millions of campaign volunteers and official booklets including the rules listed above. But last week the government declared victory, announcing that China's personal manners have improved enough to reach Olympic standards.
"We have noted a big improvement in people's public manners over the past few years," Zheng Mojie, deputy director for Beijing's Spiritual Civilization Construction Commission, said at a news conference.
"The level of civility of the whole city has improved."
"And a sound cultural and social environment has been assured for the success of the Beijing Olympic Games," she said.
Zheng said she watched alertly from her car on Wednesday to see if she could see anyone spitting on Beijing's streets. She said she found not a single spitter. China has been campaigning against spitting for many years, calling it a health hazard and an etiquette violation, but the campaign has had only limited success.
Orderly queuing is another key priority of the Chinese etiquette campaign. The authorities have also been emphasizing that Chinese spectators should politely cheer for all athletes of all countries at the Olympics, not just the Chinese competitors. "Spectators will cheer each and every athlete," Zheng declared Thursday.
To drill the civility rules into every family, China has distributed 4 million booklets to homes in Beijing. The 109-page booklet gives dozens of recommendations on what to wear and how to behave in social situations, the workplace, the family, the street and meetings with foreigners. "Avoid wearing damaged stockings because it is indecent," the booklet says in its guidance to women.
"Female underwear should not be exposed. Thick-legged women should wear dark stockings, while thinner ones should wear light stockings. Avoid exposing the edge of the stockings outside the skirt."
For men, it recommends dark-colored socks and careful coordination of their clothes. It advises people of both sexes to avoid wearing pajamas and slippers in public a traditional outfit that is sometimes seen among Beijing's elderly residents in their late-night walks in their neighborhoods.
The booklet suggests that eye contact should be maintained for 30 to 60 percent of every conversation. "If you look too long at the face of the person you are talking to, it suggests that you have more interest in the person than the subject," it says.
In outdoor behavior, it advises against eating or smoking while walking, it recommends against any public displays of affection, and it suggests that people keep their feet slightly apart or in a V shape when standing. In taxis, women should avoid sitting in the middle if they are sharing the back seat with two men.
The booklet also has rules on dealing with foreigners. It explains the growing use of "Ms." in addressing foreign women, although it says that "comrade" is still acceptable in dealing with people from socialist countries or political parties.Foreigners should not be questioned about their age, income, marital status, address, past experience, personal life, or religious or political beliefs, it says.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.