For China’s State Council, Number Two Is Number One

2016-04-20 15:57:43

China’s government has called on the nation’s manufacturers of bathroom fixtures to improve the quality of domestic toilet seats.

In a document issued on Tuesday, the State Council has set new targets for improving the international reputation of the “Made in China” brand. While the document includes a broad range of topics from both commercial and industrial sectors, the three items mentioned at the start of the memo attracted the most attention from Chinese netizens.

The first two items — air purifiers and rice cookers — are in high demand on the Chinese market, and for obvious reasons: China consumes more rice than any other country, and clean air in many of its cities is proving harder and harder to find. But the third item — smart toilet seats — is, at first glance, a bit of an outlier.

Many Chinese took to microblogging platform Weibo to voice their reactions, tongues firmly in cheek. Weibo user “yeoh” quipped: “Of course the leaders want to see top-level design, but they are faced with too much blockage. I guess that’s why they are using this opportunity to persuade the internal organs to push out a high-quality product.”

That these three items, though dissimilar, have attracted the most attention is perhaps because many Chinese tend to favor Japanese brands for these products, to the dismay of some.

Last month, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi unveiled a rice cooker after the company’s CEO had earlier complained domestic rice cookers were inferior to Japanese brands.

During last year’s Spring Festival holiday, Chinese travelling in Japan spent a combined 6 billion yuan on shopping, with many opting to bring a Japanese smart toilet seat — the kind with heating and shower features — back home. Some felt fooled when they found their high-tech toiletries were actually made in China.

Following the State Council’s document, some Weibo commenters are puzzled the government is apparently making the same mistake, and calling for better toilet seats while the gold standard Japanese branded ones are made right at home. “Isn’t this ridiculous? The world’s number one manufacturer of smart toilet seats and rice cookers is China,” wrote one user.

(Header image: A Chinese employee shows off a smarttoilet seat at a Panasonic Home Appliances Co. Ltd. factory in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, March 2, 2015. Shineli/VCG)