Extremely Harmonious Video

This video via Micah, via Shanghai Eye.

Urge to make cynical smartass remarks… nearly overpowering… URRGGgg…

All right, I’m OK now. But seriously, that video is just begging to be made fun of.

On a positive note, it’s a nice collection of everyday Chinese scenes (set though they may be in a parallel harmonious universe).


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. The wife and I saw this on ICS last week, and promptly made fun of it. But, in the last week, I’ve seen somebody pick up and return a dropped wallet, and hold an umbrella to share with someone who didn’t have one. Not that these two incidents are marking a coming tide of harmony, but it was nice to see, and a reminder that while it’s still bad in Shanghai, at least we’re not anywhere else.

  2. I’m here in America for Spring Festival Break and there’s been a commercial on TV for something bland – an insurance company or something, I forget – that’s follows a similar vein: one person helps another person in a small way, a third person observes, then goes on to help someone else, and the chain continues.

    So the sappy 和谐社会 stuff is in America, too.

  3. What’s to be cynical about? Isn’t that what every day is like here in China? I found this video to be a touching monument to the progress of society and the indisputable success of scientific development.

  4. You know, it actually worked on me, because I realized that not a single one of those things, crappy music and overall cheesy android-ness aside, would have seemed out of place or remarkable in the community I grew up in back in the States. The underlying message of the whole video is “hey, how about not being dicks to each other all the time?” (Or maybe “hey, how about displaying a minimum of courtesy and decency towards your fellow man?”) And I can get behind that…

    …though the last time I waved someone else ahead of me in a line at the subway station, I ended up waiting 10 minutes while the entire crowd of passengers surged up to the window. That learned me good.

  5. Corny public service commercials deserve to be made fun of. Hong Kong has them by the bucketful. Some, though, are more “equal” than others. I liked this one much better than the ones they show on the subway where people are encouraged to turn into Dragon Ball super-warriors when somebody tries to snake their wallet. Typical Shanghainese angry reactions, ugh.

  6. Haha this cracked me up! I first the second half while riding the subway, but this time I was watching I noticed that I know that I know the 男的外国人 at the beginning! He was a 同学 of mine at 上大 – we sometimes got paid to do commercials. He probably got like 1000元 for this one.

    BTW, my Chinese co-worker informs me that most of the Chinese people in the commercial are famous 上海主持人。

  7. King of Men Says: February 5, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Someone should “remix” the video, wiping out the audio and replacing it with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” for extra irony.

  8. They had me signed up until the taxi bit. After the hellacious time I had trying to hail a cab in Shanghai, ain’t nobody getting my ride. That woman could have been breaking water, doesn’t matter, forget about it.

  9. Aw, Seattle….

    I was watching it thinking “what the hell country is that!?” but then I saw when the dude walked into the restaurant and left the door open, and then I realized: China.

  10. So..ummm…what planet was this again?

  11. i just want to laugh…

  12. Song Wukong Says: February 5, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    To be honest, I am always the first to laugh at propaganda but this is overwhelming!! I almost cried over it. And the little girls’s voice at the end…

    I bet China will look like this in tewenty years. And Westerner will really look like evil barbarians…

  13. This is just a Shang hai version of the politeness adverts that CCTV have been running for a few months, you know the one with all the CCTV presnters viewing Chinese people helping each other and then it cuts back to the presnters face and they have a big smile, this is simular but even more over acted, it just does not seem natural. But at times I have seen chinese been very helpful to one an other, like helping a blind guy cross the road and giving up a seat on a bus to a pregnant lady.

  14. There is something about the production quality that makes nearly every ‘harmonious incident’ seem like an early scene in a romantic comedy. Every time someone does a nice thing, the do good-er locks eyes with the do good-ee, and I can just imagine spending 90 minutes watching them try to find that nice stranger that they fell in love with at the recycling bins.

    What does the little girl say, btw, for the non-chinese speaker?

  15. robin,

    It reminds me of the opening credits for some kind of sitcom, with the names appearing in the corner of every scene, except that it’s just waaayyy too long…

    I’d tell you what the little girl says, but I can’t remember, so I’d have to watch it again, and I really can’t bring myself to do that…

  16. Here’s the thing I’ve always wondered…when in history did Westerners learn to do these kinds of behaviors which we commonly associate as polite? I am really curious because this is the kind of thing which tends to not leave much of a historical record. Did Europeans during the Middle Ages wait in line and refrain from spitting (those are just the first 2 behaviors which come to mind). What about America at the turn of the 20th Century? Was there a point in history when it became common practice, or was that just the way things were always done?

  17. What country is this? Japan?

  18. Working title: “Bizarro China”

  19. By the looks of this video, Shanghai has really progressed since I was there 4 months ago.

  20. i dont know what you guys are talking about. head my way. nanjing is like that on a daily basis…

    erm… no. not even close.

  21. Isn’t “Westerners” being polite sort of regional too? Granted I lived most of my life in the midwest, and people are rather nice and polite. I hear this is not the case if you go west or to NYC or something.

    I’m not sure if these videos are useful or not, but I feel like if you run them long enough, chinese people will begin to fall for them.

  22. Little Cheese Says: February 7, 2008 at 10:38 am

    They have a commercial similar to this that runs in Shenzhen (but is sponsered by Hong Kong) and in the end a Buddhist monk and a Catholic priest end up becoming friends. Its pretty funny. And… since when has it mattered in China which recycling bin you put your trash in?!?

  23. Todd Finlay Says: February 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Ben Ross, in answer to your question about America, Stephen Carter documents the rise of etiquette in America in his book Civility: Maners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy. One source he attributes to the taming of American incivility was guide books put out for people traveling by the new conveyance in the middle of the 19th century, the train. Granted these pamphlets were an older media than the video, but it seems to serve the same purpose. The train was a means of getting people places faster than a horse. Only the rich could afford to travel alone. Most people were jostled together shoulder to shoulder. The guidebooks inveighed against people engaging in impolite behavior and modeled good behavior. It called on people to sacrifice some of their selfish desires so that the ride would be more bearable for everyone. Not a bad metaphor for the need to sacrifice some of our wilder behavior for the common good. (Carter also notes how this has been undermined by the car culture America). Its interesting how Carter associates the rise of civility with the rise of democracy and it has interesting implications for China. BTW this doesn’t mean I associate Chinese people with incivility, almost all the Chinese people that I have met are very willing to sacrifice for the common good. Like people everywhere, sometimes it takes a snowstorm to bring out the best in people. Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for all of your efforts on ChinesePod John. You bring a lot of gifts and insights into your work.

  24. It’s easy to knock China and for good reason. However, China is at least consistent. One gets the same consistently poor to mediocre service, attitude, etc. from most people, everywhere. However, the US seems to be a bit extreme, even bipolar. A lot of people are really friendly, nice, polite, and clean. They set the good example. But then you have a bunch that are the worst dregs, bottom of the barrel, filth of society who are far worse than China’s worst ever could be.

  25. The post office one is the best!!! Ha, people making a line! and then letting someone cut!!!! HA HA HA HA

  26. i saw this on the bus in shenzhen and was giggling the whole time it was on. the other people thought i was crazy….

  27. @Ben Ross, Spitting was frowned upon greatly in Europe as it was a cause for the spead of TB.

  28. […] saw this video while browsing Sinosplice John’s blog. Haha… Like John says, it’s “a parallel harmonious universe.” People are […]

  29. I really liked this when I saw it on TV in Shanghai. I think it will help the Chinese people to see what is expected behaviour in a modern city.

    Whereas in the west we are conditioned to intriscally judge the effects of our own actions on the environment and people around us, my observation is that a Chinese person produces changes to bad habits in responce to instructions to change, usually coming from the government.

    This is a common trait of the Chinese due to a history of accepting and relying upon leadership from above (be it the king or the CCP) and the large amount of people living together.

    The social pressure to make changes to ones bad habits thus only comes when a Chinese person is aware that everyone else has been instructed to change.

    Recent examples of succesfull government led public changes to City dwellers behaviours include spitting, car horn beeping and jay walking. The changes appeared overnight.

    This video is unlike those listed above since they included on spot fines/public humiliation etc for those caught offending. After all, you cant punish a person for ‘not’ being nice! However, although it seems cheesy, I think it will sink into Chinese people thoughts at a much deeper level than you might expect simply because they are aware it is being watched by all the other Chinese around them

    I thought it was a touching video and reminded of many occassions in Shanghai where some compassion to each other, instead of indifference and selfishness would have benefited everyone.

  30. The thing is, if you’re polite and nice, you should be polite and nice because you’re a good person. Not because the government told you to. What happens next year when the government rolls out advertisements telling them how to get rid of all the foreign devils who overstayed after the Olympics?

  31. Chinese people make fun of this harmonious stuff all the time. actually nowadays a new trend is you can use ‘harmony/harmonius/harmonize (he xie)’ as verb in Chinese to mean ‘brainwash’ sort of thing (and btw, which is considered very humorous). To say sb ‘(bei) he xie (le)’ is kind of like ‘sb. is neutralized’ or ‘sb is brainwashed’…

  32. Stephanie Says: March 11, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    It’s Japan!

  33. […] obscure linguists). And we suggest our authorities in the fair metropolis show those new migrants the Wenming video streaming all the way on the flight down, with a few added extras, such as talking like a pirate […]

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