And Finally

Passport control

China’s unruly travellers play nationalism card


Readying for their rescue...

China Cosco was established on April 27, 1961 and the shipping start-up made its first journey the following day, sending a vessel to Jakarta.

The mission was to bring back 1,500 ethnic compatriots threatened by Indonesia’s anti-Chinese movement.

In more recent times Beijing has repeatedly rescued Chinese nationals from danger zones abroad. For instance, over a 12-day period in 2011 more than 35,000 citizens were retrieved from war-torn Libya. And in November last year, a jet flew to Bali to pick up tourists stranded by the erupting Mount Agung.

Official media outlets have celebrated these efforts as evidence of China’s growing clout as a world power. As state broadcaster CCTV said of the various rescues, they “win support from overseas Chinese citizens, greatly enhance national cohesion, stimulate all Chinese citizens to be patriotic and lay a constructive basis for realising the Chinese dream.”

China’s top grossing film – Wolf Warrior II (see WiC367) – played on a similar theme. The jingoistic action flick closes with an image of a Chinese passport and a short message: “When you encounter danger on foreign soil, do not give up. Please remember, at your back stands a strong motherland.”

But have the propagandists overdone it, and have they now stirred up unrealistic expectations among China’s travellers who are now increasingly using the patriotism card when they are irked overseas?

A widely discussed case saw a group of Chinese tourists filmed on a smartphone as they confronted police in a Tokyo airport late last month. As the altercation grew heated, one of the tourists started to sing the national anthem, leading others to follow suit.

According to Chinese media, the incident began when the tourists suspected they had been bumped off a flight in favour of Japanese passengers. The Chinese embassy in Japan then took an interest in the case and intervened on their behalf. After negotiations, the airline (Jetstar Japan) agreed to send stranded passengers to a hotel nearby and to offer meals as compensation.

A few days later, there was a similar row at a Sri Lankan airport. This time Chinese diplomats were deployed to keep stranded passengers “calm and rational”.

And in the same period, chants of “China! China!” were reported from a group of tourists at an Iranian airport, after their flights home had been delayed by a heavy snowstorm.

Even the Global Times – a newspaper normally at the front of the queue for making China’s case – deemed that the unruly passengers had gone too far by playing the ‘motherland card’ in a case where the extreme weather made it unsafe to fly. “Are our ‘giant babies’ crying ‘China’ to try to force the plane to take off?” it asked witheringly.

Along similar lines, the People’s Daily warned the nation’s tourists not to overdo the ‘Wolf Warrior spirit’ when travelling overseas.

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