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Does China Want Foreign Tourists at the Games?

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on August 1, 2008

Given how hard the Chinese government is making it for people to get visas, maybe the answer is no, Beijing isn’t all that concerned about attracting lots of foreign visitors. Bad news for all those hotels that have opened in the city or all the airlines hoping to get a lift from Olympics visitors. As Bloomberg reported last week, Beijing hotels are slashing their rates in a somewhat desperate attempt to boost their occupancy rates. Even the state-controlled media is reporting that hotels are struggling. The Shanghai Daily (subscription required) recently ran a story with the headline “Hotels slash room rates as foreign visitors fail to turn up.”)

At The New Republic’s blog, Princeton professor and China expert Perry Link writes that a disappointingly low foreign response to the games might trouble ordinary Chinese people but not the Chinese government: “There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the Chinese people, overwhelmingly, want foreigners to come and get a good impression of their country. But the Chinese people are not running this Olympics show. The top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are in charge, and the priorities of this particular group are hardly identical to those of the broad populace. The first priority of the top leaders is not to impress foreigners but to impress the Chinese people that they, the CCP, are the champions and vanguard of China’s new nationalism. This point is crucial to their power….The CCP leaders today are less interested in impressing the outside world than in showing the Chinese people how much the outside world is impressed with CCP-led China. For that, they don’t need potentially obstreperous tourists…”

The government does run the risk of this strategy backfiring; although the Chinese government may not be terribly interested in impressing foreigners, many Chinese people are. Most Chinese people are justifiably proud of what they have accomplished and want to show off those achievements to foreigners. So I expect we’ll be seeing stories in the Chinese press soon with accounts of foreign visitors admiring the new airport and new subway lines as well as the beautiful Bird’s Nest and other Olympic venues - regardless of what the tourist arrival numbers are.

* Re-posted on August 4 to fix technical problem

Reader Comments


August 2, 2008 1:14 AM

yes, unless all the chinese people bend over backward for whites like the good 'ole colonial days, then it's racism against whites. white people cannot live without white privileges. stop whining and complaining already. just look at how many white foreign "expert" there are in china. they are "experts" just because they are white. just look at the english teachers from non-english speaking countries, they can teach english just because they are white. and how many other white "actors" and "models" in asia and how many asian actors and models in the west.

just stop whining. if you don't like china bruce, then leave and stop complaining


August 2, 2008 1:47 AM

I am sure China wants as many foreign tourists at the Games as possible. However, it is very diffucult to seperate the real tourists from those radical activists who have demonstrated all year that they will do anything to crash China's party. So who can blame China for having second thoughts about letting a bunch of party crashers in. After all, those peoples who are doing their best to create a anti-China feeding frenzy certainly does not look like your well-natured turists. In fact, everyday these people look more and more like the invaders of the 1901 Eight-Nation Alliance which loot & burn Beijing and humuliate the very weak Qing dynasty.

August 2, 2008 2:54 AM

I don't think anybody should go there either.


August 2, 2008 3:14 AM

Actually Chinese government should have done this a long time ago. Chinese visa rules are one of the most relaxed one in the world. It was so easy to obtain visa in the past. You can even get it done in one or two days compare with 3 months for US visa.


August 2, 2008 11:54 PM

Beijing already have enough visitor from all china for olympics. As westerner not comfortable with very crowded place, it is good idea to limit the number of foreign tourist during the olympic. Anyway, a lot of foreign tourist still be able to visit China after olympic.


August 3, 2008 10:22 PM

bruce, even tho the chinese gov had made hurdles about visit visas. china is the fastest growing tourism market. so i dont no what u are talkin about.


August 4, 2008 1:22 AM

Ah, the real question should be:"Do the foreigners really want to watch the Olympic Games or thrashing China when the Chinese celebrating their games?"


August 4, 2008 5:30 AM

Bruce: the key point is :DO you really want to go to China and understand real China.Actually,I have red so many ariticles written by you and your colleages ,except ads,most of them are full of bias against red China.So I think in your mind ,you really do not want to and need to go to China,because you can write about China based on your proconception and imagination.What only you should concern before writing is not going with big departure from your position against red China instead of telling the truth of China to the readers.So this issue to you is pointless.


August 4, 2008 2:45 PM

The real losers here will be the sponsors.Public feeling is absolutely against those companies seen to be collaborating with the Chinese.These companies will feel the impact for many years.In Europe, the sponsors of cycling teams were damaged irreparably when some cyclists were discovered to have been using illegal performance-enhncing substances.Those companies sponsoring the most unpopular Olympic games in history will really feel the loss in sales - just check out (in as many languages as you care) the thousands of blogs with massive support for boycott of these companies.


August 4, 2008 5:47 PM

I hate to see China lose financially on the Olympic Games, but the treatment of the unwanted religious groups esp. the christian church is totally wrong. How can a country hope to progress when there is so much aggression. I read the stories in Voice of the Martyrs and I am horrified. I pray that China will see the light and allow the these churches to grow. It will be a blessing for China.


August 4, 2008 6:26 PM

They are hosting a party remember and whats the red stand for the blood of China's tortured victims? I've seen it and heard it as Chinese bashed in the heads of monks in prayer as they brutaly came between God and Man. China says its people belong to them as say Vancouver wanted to seperate would you Canadians not put them in a prision and kill and torture because they were just to loving and wanted to be left in peace. And now they are in a parking lot opposing their genocide where I'm certain most will never make it out alive so when your attending the Olympics and you see them in the parking lot please tell them for me to run, hide because we all no one opposes Communist China because they destroy. Cough Cough be careful what you breath in. And when China says don't get mixed up in her politics I say China you don't do polotics you do communisium.


August 8, 2008 11:05 PM

Yes, they need foreign tourists. Brand China is strong and getting stronger. China needs foreign visitors, expand the brand!


August 12, 2008 9:08 AM

It seems that lot of people here are being too sentimental and over reacting. For all that are complaining Bruce's supposed racist leaning, note that he makes a clear distinction between ordinary Chinese citizen and the CCP.

The fact that only 25% of tickets are allocated to foreigner and sponsors instead of the usual 50% tells something.

Although most of Chinese (even in CCP) are eager to welcome foreigners to show their proud country to the rest of the world, you can not dispute that elements of uncertaintitiesis are not CCP's favorite things. In this case, it includes large amount of foreigners, with some politically motivated to gain a camera time.

Also, I don't think too many would disagree that CCP is utilizing the Olympic to stablize the domestic political environment, by instilling sense of shared heritage and purpose. The opening ceremony was the most ethnic themed one seen in while (as expected from communist government).

From seeing all the Chinese complaining that the "west" is ganging up to condem them, with "us against them" mentality, I guess CCP's PR rep's effort is working.

Yes, it is true that the "west" is apprehensive about China's economic and political ascent to some degree. However, this is not purely based on occidental countries' racial bias.

It is mainly the fact that such a politically unsavvy masses gaining power on the back of deformed form of capitalism based on nepotism, corruption, and disregard of the laws (I'm in no doubt that many Chinese despises wome business practices there as well) that worries us.


August 12, 2008 9:06 PM

Bruce, when commenting about the difficulties of getting a Chinese visa, do you know what it's like to apply for a US visa? Application for a US visa in many parts of the world is both a frustrating and humiliating experience. And that is even before a potential visitor steps foot in the USA. Perhaps you should find out to see things in the right perspective.


August 12, 2008 11:52 PM

China is doing very hard to join the world. Look at what they have been hysterically trying to improve the image of China after a devastating earthquake. It is unfair to criticize their endeavor and great hospitality for the Olympic games. Please be fair to China and people that has the courage to host the games.

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