Much has been written about some of the more bucaneering instincts among China’s new drivers. When some 280 million people learn to drive in the space of a few years, there is less etiquette for newbies to absorb. The result is that Chinese roads have more than their fair share of crazy moments.
The same is true of some of the country’s pavements when the nation’s newly anointed dog owners take their animals for walks. Some 27 million Chinese are now registered as owning dogs, up from 1.5 million a decade ago. Attitudes towards the animals vary wildly, from owners – often elderly women – who push their pugs and Pekinese around in prams and dress them in baby clothes, to the people that still raise and kill canines for food.
Two recent cases illustrate how increasing levels of dog ownership can create social problems on city streets, however.
The first in Suzhou saw a dog owner knock a street cleaner to the ground for driving his electric three-wheeler cart too close to the man’s poodle.
The second saw a female street-cleaner tell an owner off for allowing his Corgi to relieve itself in the middle of the pavement.
Again, the owner reacted violently. In a phrase that has now been made into an online meme, the man was videoed shouting at the cleaner: “My dog is worth more than your life.”
He later apologised to the woman and paid her medical expenses.
“This owner is an embarrassment to his dog,” a disgusted netizen wrote. “We should take a good look at society,” agreed a newspaper in Guizhou . “Many of the street cleaners are elderly people working unsociable hours far away from home. We rely on them to maintain the image of our cities, but we need also to uphold that image ourselves,” it said.
The story of the two attacks comes a few months after Wang Sicong, the son of real estate billionaire Wang Jianlin, posted a picture of his Husky with eight iPhone 7s on the day the new phone was released for sale in China. Previously he’d shared photos of his dog wearing two gold Apple watches worth $28,000.
Pampered pooches like this are supposed to reflect the wealth and status of their owners. Pedigree dogs cost upwards of Rmb3,000 ($440.25) in Beijing and the toy poodle is by far the most popular, accounting for 13% of all sales, according to the New York Times.
Why? Partly because the animals meet the city’s height limits – 35cm at the shoulder.
Despite China’s growing love for dogs some districts try to ban them as health hazards and a nuisance.
The attacks on street cleaners only strengthens their case.
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