The Effects of China's Tourism Diplomacy and a "United Front"
Shih-Ping, Fan, China: An International Journal
Chinese tourism has been growing rapidly in tandem with China's economic development since the 1990s. The situation was such that domestic tourism could no longer satisfy demand, leading to a rise in outbound tourism, a much welcome boost to the economies of other countries. Along with this rise in tourism is the realisation that tourism can be utilised as a political bargaining chip in China's foreign affairs. This article aims to probe the political roles of Chinese outbound tourism and examine the significance of inter-discipline integration to acquire new thinking derived from the interaction between politics and tourism.
Evolution of Chinese Outbound Tourism
The Chinese began to travel in large numbers in the late 1970s after the launch of China's economic reforms and opening to the world. From the 1980s, barriers to Chinese travelling to Hong Kong, Macao and Thailand for the purpose of visiting relatives were lifted. Then, from the 1990s, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the countries in the Asia Pacific regions became popular destinations for Chinese outbound tourists (see Table 1).
Moreover, since 2002, many more countries, especially in Europe, as well as in Central and South America and Africa, have been approved as tourist destinations in China. The US granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) in 2008. (1) Over the last 14 years, Chinese outbound tourism has steadily grown (see Table 2). Currently, China has emerged as the fastest growing source of tourists in the world.
Table 3 shows that China ranked fifth in terms of tourism spending in 2008. The World Tourism Organization estimates that there will be nearly 100 million outbound travellers from China by 2020, accounting for 6.2 per cent of the total market share. In 2001, China was the fourth largest source country for tourists, after Germany, Japan and the US. (2)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Political Roles of Chinese Outbound Tourism
This article discusses the political roles of Chinese outbound tourism from four theoretical aspects. The first is "globalisation" (see Figure 1). Outbound tourism is a necessary response to globalisation. As suggested by Marie-Francoise Lanfant et al., international tourism has become a total social phenomenon and an inevitable international fact. (3) The second is "mixed economy". The Chinese government has created favourable conditions by managing and controlling outbound tourism. The third is the effects which can be divided into the economic effects of tourism and the display of China's soft power through its outbound tourism.
(1) Background of Political Roles of Chinese Outbound Tourism
The source of the theory of globalisation was Marshall Mcluhan, a Canadian media theorist who proposed the concept of global village in the 1960s. (4) At the end of the 1980s, the collapse of the communist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe prompted China to implement reforms and open its doors. In the 1990s, globalisation became the trend and outbound tourism was finally permitted in China after many years of being banned.
Globalisation, however, has become a controversial topic in recent years. Some scholars are extremely optimistic about the development of globalisation and believe that nation states will be replaced by the market, an exaggeration theory represented by neo-liberalists, such as Francis Fukuyama and Kenichi Ohmae. (5) However, the concept of one-dimensional hyper-globalisers often leads to objections by some sceptics, such as Grahame Thompson, Paul Hirst and Linda Weiss, (6) who have emphasised that globalisation is internationalisation, and countries still govern the economies. The third view is held by transformationalists like British scholar Anthony Giddens, German scholar Ulirich Beck and American scholar Roland Robertson. (7) They consider globalisation a process of social transition and a central driving force behind the rapid social, political and economic changes that are reshaping modern societies and world order. To them, international and domestic affairs have become intertwined and more difficult to split. (8) There is also a stress on "multi-angled" globalisation and the dynamics, gradualness and inevitability of globalisation.
This article adopts the view of the transformationalists. Although China launched economic reforms and opened its doors in 1978, self-paid outbound tourism was not permitted until 1990. During those 12 years, the demands of citizens and pressures by foreign governments were rejected on the grounds of national security, prevention of peaceful evolution and limitation of the outflow of foreign currency. However, as David Held et al. stated, "... globalisation is more ubiquitous than any other human migration". (9) China finally realised that globalisation is not one-sided. It not only "brings in" revenue, which includes opening the market and attracting foreign investment, but also lets its citizens "go out". As Zygmunt Bauman describes, "Global freedom of movement signals social promotion, advancement and success, and immobility exudes the repugnant odour of defeat, failed life and being left behind . Life ambitions are more often than not expressed in terms of mobility, the free choice of place, travelling, seeing the world; life fears, on the contrary, are talked about in terms of confinement, lack of change, being barred from places which others traverse easily, explore and enjoy. The good life is life on the move". Thus, "[e]nforced immobility the condition of being tied to a place and not allowed to move elsewhere, seems a most abominable, cruel and repulsive state". (10) Based on this argument, if China forbids overseas travel, it cannot truly and totally integrate itself into the world economy.
As discussed previously, globalisation is the cause of outbound tourism in China, and the resultant political roles. The development of outbound tourism is thus a strong impetus for China's globalisation process. This article incorporates Robin Cohen and Paul Kennedy's definition of the characteristics of globalisation and their argument into the research framework, and summarises the opinions of relevant scholars to discuss how China capitalises on the political effects of outbound tourism through globalisation. (11)
(i) Changes in Spatio-temporal Concept
The great change of space and time that resulted from fast mobility and communication among people, known as "world compression", was termed by Roland Robertson. (12) Held et al. suggest that "[g]lobalization can be taken to refer to those spatio-temporal processes of change which underpin a transformation in the organization of human affairs by linking together". (13) Air travel has played an important role. The travel time between countries has been shortened to one day, and the costs have been reduced greatly, thus providing favourable conditions for the development of Chinese outbound tourism.
(ii) Increase in Cultural Interaction
Globalisation emphasises the increase in interaction opportunities of different cultures. As Held et al. suggest: "Tourism is simultaneously one of the most obvious forms of the globalization of culture". (14) With the growth of transnational tourism, tourists can experience the intricacies of different cultures while becoming a cultural transmitter themselves. (15) Globalisation allows China to market its culture and values, project a peaceful image and demonstrate its superpower capabilities, wealth, confidence and determination to globalise through its outbound tourists.
(iii) Common Issues
With globalisation, issues which have been formerly limited to a few countries have become common issues with other countries. When "global free mobility" becomes a universal value of globalisation, "for some people it augurs an unprecedented freedom from physical obstacles and unheard of ability to move and act from a distance". (16) Chinese outbound tourism manifests China's successful adaption to globalisation and active response to its citizens' demand for outbound tourism, after many years of seclusion. With reform and opening up, the Chinese can now enjoy the freedom of mobility like other progressive states, demonstrating that China is a big country with not only "hard national power" in military, politics, economy and foreign affairs, but also "soft national power" in improving people's living standards and freedom.
(iv) Increase in Interactions and Interdependence
In the process of globalisation in the post-Cold War era, interactions and interdependence between different countries increased greatly. Experts of international relations, Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, propose the concept of "complex interdependence" in which actors are affected by their mutual actions with increased transnational interactions. This in turn leads to an increase in interdependence and mutual demands. (17) Following the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, China's economic development was a bright spark at a time when other countries were in recession. It became intolerable for China to make gains with its development of inbound tourism without contributing outbound travellers in return. With globalisation, China can no longer look at its own gains, but must share its fruits of soaring development with other countries. The Chinese government has shown its intention to maintain the connection and interdependence with the world.
(2) Approach of the Political Roles of Chinese Outbound Tourism
After the economic crisis in the 1930s, the hypothesis of free competition proposed by Adam Smith was challenged, and the view of "market failure" emerged, which drew attention to the concept of governmental intervention proposed by Keynes. Keynes emphasised that government can stimulate consumption and investment by implementing fiscal measures and market intervention. After the Second World War, one form of extreme government intervention was socialism-based and regulated economic planning.
In China's case, its approval of outbound tourism is not liberalism, and should be considered as government intervention. The Chinese government directly and absolutely intervenes in tourism issues related to countries granted ADS, forms of travel such as in tour groups, etc. This differs considerably from democratic states which must consider pressure from opposition parties, media and interest groups when making decisions. These countries do not directly intervene in the tourism market, but implement policies to remedy the defects of the market mechanism, such as low price competition, mandatory purchase and other problems related to the violation of consumer rights. In its efforts towards globalisation, the Chinese government could avoid over-regulating and intervening in the tourism market and play a new role through policy implementations. By adopting the mode of a mixed economy, China will have control over the activities of its outbound tourism market and avoid negative issues through policies while, more importantly, fulfilling its political roles.
(3) Political Effects
The effect of the political roles of outbound tourism can be discussed through two theories: the theory of tourism as an economic aid and the theory of soft power. The theory of tourism as an economic aid is based on the argument that because tourism brings economic benefits to the receiving country, it can be considered a …
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Publication information: Article title: The Effects of China's Tourism Diplomacy and a "United Front". Contributors: Shih-Ping, Fan - Author. Journal title: China: An International Journal. Volume: 8. Issue: 2 Publication date: September 2010. Page number: 247+. © 2008 East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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