BEIJING (AFP) - China's president has ordered the country to march on in its "revolution" to clean up notoriously dirty and foul-smelling public bathrooms in a bid to improve quality of life and boost tourism.
The so-dubbed "toilet revolution" was launched in 2015 as part of efforts to make restrooms - often squat toilets with no paper - more tourist-friendly.
President Xi Jinping said the toilet problem "is not a small thing" and cleaning up is necessary to create a "civilised" urban and rural environment, China's state news agency Xinhua reported on Monday (Nov 27).
The country expects to have added or upgraded more than 70,000 toilets by the end of this year.
Another 64,000 will be built or enhanced between 2018 and 2020, the National Tourism Administration has said in an action plan.
According to Xinhua, since taking office in 2012, Xi has made a point on rural tours to ask villagers whether they did their business in flushable toilets or pits dug into the ground.
"In rural areas, some toilets were little more than makeshift shelters surrounded by bunches of corn stalks, and some were open pits next to pigsties," the agency said.
"Local authorities are now more aware of the important role toilets play, believing better toilets are not only beneficial for tourism, but can also... enhance the overall level of civilisation of society." China's infamous "squatty potties" arouse fear in some would-be tourists, with several tourism blog posts dedicated to the subject.
While studies have indicated that squatting may have health benefits over sitting, the position is still hard to accept for those accustomed to porcelain thrones.
Public bathrooms in China have also been known to be bereft of toilet paper thanks to enterprising crooks sneaking out entire rolls for their personal use. Facial recognition is now employed in some places to limit individual toilet paper portions.
Internet commenters applauded the restroom remodelling movement on Chinese microblogging site Weibo on Monday.
"Support the toilet revolution," one user wrote. "Seriously, whether it's in a city or the countryside, when nature calls, it's always a hassle to find a decent bathroom."