From this Marginal Revolution post I was directed to this article about the lack of cleanliness in Paris these days. Intriguingly, Paris is receiving increasing numbers of Chinese tourists. Anyone who thinks these things are completely unrelated has spent no time in a public space in China.
To Chinese citizens, any indoor or outdoor space is an acceptable place to spit or to have your child defecate. It appears as if the concept of "clean" or "dirty" don't exist the way they do elsewhere. Our kaolengmian guy uses a putty knife to flip and dice the food, and when the knife gets some food burned onto it, he scrapes it against the cinder block edge of the flower planter behind him. These blocks are grey with deposited air pollution and are occasionally spat or urinated upon. He must have some concept of "clean," or else he would have no reason at all to scrape the putty knife on the blocks. But his concept doesn't include the notion of keeping random bits of pollution, phlegm, and urine out of customers' food.
Last week my wife had to help Squidgems use a public toilet, but it turned out to be a false alarm. When she came back out, she told her friend, "If he had known there was nothing there, I wouldn't have had to have just experienced that place." Her friend said, "I wish that China would embrace a Japanese style of cleanliness. I mean, they're so close to each other, but their standards are so far apart!" Maybe what's happening in Paris is the beginning of Japan cleaning up after China. If only they could do it in more places than just Paris.