Golden Week hasn’t arrived yet and Chinese tourists are already getting bad press.
According to the Sunday Morning Post, China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and the Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee (worth mentioning if only for its fantastic name) have listed the worst habits of Chinese tourists in a bid to promote good manners.
The list is populated by all the usual suspects: spitting, littering, smoking in prohibited areas, queue-jumping, talking too loudly, taking off socks, shoes and sometimes shirts in public areas, bargaining with merchants where prices are fixed.
The CNTA observed that last year there were 31 million outbound Chinese travellers and this figure is expected to reach 100 million by 2020. But "the behaviour of some Chinese travellers is not compatible with the nation’s economic strength and its growing international status."
You can take the man out of China but you can’t take China out of the man, they might as well have said.
Apparently the campaign is due to run until the 2008 Olympics, just like every other initiative, promotion, offer and bout of public recrimination or ego-massaging. (What happens when the Olympics finish? Wondrous bureaucratic armistice turns ugly as people take to the streets in search of regulations to fill the void?)
I don’t know how many projects have been launched in the last few years aimed at making the capital more palatable to hygeine and decorum-conscious tourists.
What I do know is that, while my typical Beijing cab driver now rolls around in a green-and-gold sedan as opposed to a suspension-free Xiali, he still has a tendency to open the car door for a sly spit at every other set of traffic lights.
You can complain about the man in Beijing but you can’t take Beijing out of the man… unless he voluntarily hacks it up from his pollution-scarred lungs.