As I’ve mentioned before, I love visiting China. Almost every time I do I learn something about the wide world and how we humans interact with it and one another! It was only after many years of visiting the country that I realized one, almost universal, constant when it came to Chinese Air Conditioning: there is no individual control for hotel rooms in China. Yes there is a little box with a little knob or some buttons that appears to alter the temperature in your hotel room but they NEVER WORK. I had chalked it up to 3rd world engineering for over a decade but the sheer consistency finally raised my suspicions and after a few questions I had confirmation of what was going on.

The aged hotel manager explained (through a translator and after a few RMB for his trouble) that standard practice in Chinese hotels is to have non-functioning but realistic thermostats in each room. In reality the heat and air are controlled by the staff via central thermostats. He told me that the fake thermostats make foreign visitors feel like they have control and this makes them more tolerant of any given temperature.


No one said that Mongolian Plumbing was not useful! It can be a subtle form of control when used properly.

Since that experience and revelation, I’ve discovered several situations where I was given access to what appeared to be a feedback apparatus but, in reality, I was being mollified by clever use a non-functioning thermostat (or variation thereof). Customer service agents and members of the AAO Board of Trustees seem to possess the greatest skill when it comes to use of this tactic.

4 thoughts on “Chinese Air Conditioning

  1. Such a great observation. I wonder how many “Chinese thermostats” we all turn on a daily basis?!

  2. Tons I’m sure Brian! Some work for us and some against us but the best ones go unnoticed!

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