Asia Minute: Does the Grinch Live in China?

Dec 20, 2018

Credit Jonathan McIntosh / Wikimedia Commons

Christmas is five days away, and while some are focused on shopping or travel or parties, there’s been a change of plans in one city in northern China.

According to Doctor Seuss, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas lived on a cliff overlooking Whoville. But he might have an alternative mailing address in Langfang, China.

The South China Morning Post reports officials in that northern city of more than four million residents have ordered the removal of all “festive decorations” this holiday season. The statement from the city government said there would be punishment for anyone caught selling Christmas trees or wreaths or stockings or figurines of Santa Claus.

Multiple motivations may be at play.

The U.K. paper The Telegraph quotes state media as saying the city is trying to keep the streets clean and clear — to move up in the annual rankings of China’s list of “National Civilized Cities.”

But that paper and others also point out that national authorities have been cracking down on Christianity — part of a broader restriction of freedom of religion and expression.      

The South China Morning Post quotes a researcher for Amnesty International who says the move against Christmas decorations may be an effort by local officials to impress the central government in Beijing.

Langfang, China in 2003.
Credit earth_photos / Flickr

In any event, pressures on expression and religion apparently do not extend to the entire commercial sphere.

The official Xinhua News Agency reports that in 2017, some 60 percent of the world’s artificial Christmas trees were made in China.