Despite the high end high tech products and industries in the major cities of China – and in the hands of many Chinese people –we saw lots of incidences of over-manning: of people working in ‘non-jobs’. China is the only place where I have seen someone sweeping the hard shoulder of the motorway using a dustpan and brush. In Europe sweeping motorway at all is rare except for moving debris after an accident, but doing it laboriously with such simple tools would be uneconomic.
As well as the motorway sweeper, there seemed no logic to the two women washing the marble staircase of a Shanghai museum at two in the afternoon, as visitors went up and down. The Chinese like shiny marble surfaces for public places like railway and metro stations; all kept very clean and highly polished, and potentially deadly.
The ticket booth for the metro had four women working in it: one issuing tickets, one supervising the one issuing tickets, one dusting the desks and one sweeping the floor.
The most pointless job I saw was that of the uniformed man whose job it was to keep people off the grass under a statue of Mao, by blowing his whistle whenever someone appeared to be heading in that direction. Economically I think it would be cheaper to let people walk on the grass and pay a gardener to ‘fix’ it every few weeks, or pave it over.
These kinds of jobs are really a way of distributing social security payments – but despite China’s economic boom they still go to very large numbers of the population for whom there are still not enough ‘real’ jobs.
 There was a sign asking people not to walk on the grass but Chinese people don’t pay much attention to regulations if they think no one is looking. For example drivers only obey traffic lights at road junctions if they can’t see any other cars, and pedestrian crossing lights seem to be optional as far as both pedestrians and drivers are concerned. The signs in the camellia beds in the palace gardens said ‘keep off’ – in all sorts of different ways. Men with whistles spent lots of the May afternoon chasing people who were trying to have their photos taken sitting among the best camellia bushes in the centre of the beds. The information at the Yanghsuo hotel told us that the bamboo boats beside the hotel were unlicenced, illegal and unsafe and could be stopped by the police at any time. It then gave information about how to book a ride on them.