China’s noisy ‘dancing grannies’ silenced by device that disables speakers | China

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Across China’s public parks and squares, in the early hours of the morning or late in the afternoon, the grannies gather.

The gangs, made up mostly of middle-aged and older women who went through the Cultural Revolution, take to a corner of a local park or sporting ground and dance in unison to Chinese music. Loud music.

The tradition has led to alarming standoffs, with the blaring music frequently blamed for disturbing the peace in often high-density residential areas. But many are too scared to confront the women.

The dilemma of the dancing grannies has prompted some to seek out tech solutions. One went viral online this week: a remote stun gun-style device that claims to be able to disable a speaker from 50 metres away.

Reviews of the item were positive. “Downstairs is finally quiet. For two days the grannies thought their speaker is not working!”, said one on Taobao, China’s version of eBay.

“Great invention, with this tool I will be the boss in the neighbourhood now,” said another. “This is not just a regular product, it is social justice!”

China is home to an estimated 100 million dancing grannies. Square dancing allows older women, many of whom live alone or with younger family members who they accompanied on a move to the cities, to socialise. They form strong bonds, often shopping or doing other activities, including group investments, together, the South China Morning Post reported.

State media has described the square dancing, which has its roots in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, as a “positive and effective way to reduce the medical and financial burden as well as increase the life quality of older people”.

“Many participants are retired, their children are no longer around. Square dancing becomes a place for them to have a social life.”

But neighbours complain it has gotten out of control, with competing groups blasting their music over each other in small areas, and bullying those who try to intervene. Viral videos and reports have shown the groups arguing and fighting with basketball players to take over their court, or, in one case, breaking into a football field and stopping the game to dance in the space, prompting a police response and arrests.

In 2019, Tianjin City added new regulations on the promotion of civilized behaviors, allowing police to fine the dancing grannies up to 500 yuan (£56) if their music is too loud in public.

Some disputes have escalated to violence. In Shijiazhuang, neighbours fight back at the grannies by spreading stinky tofu, paint, and engine oil while they are dancing. One media report described a high rise resident throwing human faeces out the window at them.

“Most of them are the products of the Red Guard era, they don’t respect society or the environment,” said a young Chinese resident of Guiyang, who did not want to be named.

“Square dancing is a problem left over from history. Many elderly people feel that the whole China is built by their generation. They have the absolute voice and status. We young people have done nothing, and of course are not qualified to question them.”

The stun gun and other devices for sale online are part of an emerging market in goods to push back against the noise pollution while avoiding interaction. “I tried to communicate with them once, but the police stopped me,” said the Guiyang man. “They thought I was going to do something bad. You know the golden rule of Chinese policy: the larger number of people matters. Everything is based on social maintenance.”

It’s not all hostile. Last year one group in Lanzhou city, Gansu, found a solution that make everyone happy by using bluetooth earphones, holding their own version of a silent disco.

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