Summary of Why Can’t the Chinese Wait in Lines?

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The prevalence of line cutting in China remains baffling to those from abroad. Foreign journalists have tried to dissect the phenomenon, ending up none the wiser. A recent round of viral videos showed some line cutting altercations getting out of hand. Why is this practice so pervasive in China? Phoenix Weekly columnists – writing under the pen names Ning Yi and Guo Meili – recap a few cases of line jumping that went viral and offer their light-hearted analysis of the reasons for this cultural quirk. This not-so-serious article isn’t an in-depth social study, and its rally for social change seems more like an afterthought. Nonetheless, getAbstract recommends this entertaining read to anyone interested in contemporary Chinese culture and society.

About the Authors

Ning Yi and Guo Meili are op-ed columnists who cover social topics for Phoenix Weekly.



The Chinese are notorious line cutters and will do what it takes to avoid standing in a queue. One young woman falsely claimed to be pregnant and fought a nine-year-old for a spot in line. A video of the quarrel went viral. You may see similar cases while queuing in hospitals, train stations, supermarkets or even traffic. Some claim that Chinese culture is “anti-queue.”

Savvy practitioners know four main styles of getting ahead:

  1. Divide and conquer – Send your line buddies to different lines to see which one moves the fastest. If one gets to the front, rally everyone to the head of the fastest line.
  2. Needle and thread – Skip the line and shoot directly for the ticket counter, feign cluelessness and start firing away questions. When the next person in line gets bored, gives up complaining and stops watching, make your purchase.
  3. Shameless thick-skinned...