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Disposable diapers or bare bottoms? China frets over potty training

As they rapidly enter the middle class, Chinese parents are scorning traditional environmentally-friendly split pants for disposable diapers. 

Potty training Chinese style is also known as "elimination training," or getting Junior to "go" on command, sans diapers.
More and more middle class Chinese are choosing to use disposable diapers, instead.

Courtesy of Casey Hynes

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The grandmother and the toddler were huddled in the middle of the sidewalk on Gongtibeilu, not far from Beijing’s Workers Stadium. As the child squatted, a small stream of urine appeared out of a slit in the back of the child’s pants and puddled on the sidewalk while passersby barely gave them a glance. Beaming with pride, the grandmother carefully wiped the tiny bottom, and the two walked off, hand in hand.

The spectacle of babies and children being held over trash cans, squatting in tree boxes, or using the floor of a train as an impromptu toilet is not shocking to anyone who’s lived in China for any length of time. And kaidangku, the split pants that allow this anytime/anywhere release, are as much a sign of China as Chairman Mao’s portrait looming over Tiananmen Square.

But Chinese consumers are rapidly entering the middle class – and it's affecting things as basic as potty training.

Each day, luxury stores like Michael Kors and Alexander Wang open in Beijing, while sales of BMWs and diamonds break records. McKinsey & Company, which tracks consumer spending, estimates that by 2015, China will account for about 20 percent of luxury sales around the globe.


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