Published May 24th, 2007 by Mliesie

The Beijing Olympics & Chinese behaviour…….

In the online ‘China Daily’, I read the following article:

China targets bad tourist behavior ahead of Olympics   


For Chinese who habitually travel during the weeklong May Day holiday, they may find this year’s itinerary involves as much etiquette education as sightseeing, delicious food and shopping. “On our first day in Beijing, we were repeatedly told by the tour guide not to litter and spit and given pamphlets about what to do and what not to do,” said Luan Hong, a tourist from southeast China’s Fujian province. Posters telling travelers how to behave appear in almost every train station, bus stop, hotel and scenic spot. “We are treated like little kids,” Luan said. Tourists’ grumbles mean little to officials who are anxious to correct the embarrassing habits of Chinese travelers ahead of next year’s Olympics Games. And there is no better opportunity of doing it than the May Day travel spree, when an estimated 150 million Chinese will be on the road. 

The China National Tourism Administration has issued a circular, making travel agencies and tour guides responsible for correcting tourists’ bad behavior during the holidays. Jumping the line, spitting, littering and clearing one’s throat loudly in public are some of the frequently observed practices among Chinese travelers, according to a guideline prepared and released last year by the Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee (SCSC) of the Chinese Communist Party, the official etiquette watchdog. “We are supposed to remind people constantly throughout the tour, and also lead an etiquette discussion at the end of the tour,” said Huang Xiaohui, a tour guide with a Beijing-based travel agency. “The Olympics are coming, and we don’t want to get disgraced,” Huang said, summing up the purpose succinctly. 

Beijing expects to receive 550,000 foreign tourists during the Olympics and an estimated 2 million domestic tourists will also visit the capital city. “Promoting civilized behaviors among Chinese travelers is a long-term task. To harvest short-term results before the games, we need to focus our resources on the main problems,” said Zhai Weihua, SCSC deputy director. “Tens of thousands of reporters will come to China to cover the Games next year, which means both China’s positive and negative sides will be amplified. Once bad impressions are made, they last, ” Zhai said. “That’s why we should grab the opportunity to change uncouth behavior,” said Wu Jianmin, President of China Foreign Affairs University, in a TV interview. 

The Olympics are now only about 450 days away. This is only one of the many articles about the Beijing Olympics, one can read in the newspapers nowadays. The Chinese government really wants to make a good impression on all the foreigners visiting China, next year and thereafter….. In cities like Beijing, HongKong, Shangai, Xi’an and so on, I think they will succeed. But when I walk the streets of Yulin, many of the habits described above occur everywhere around me. It could just be the people in the North, it could just be that most of the people here are actually peasants, it could be that the people here represent the real spirit of China,  it could also be that they really do not care. Let’s just wait and see what happens in 2008. ;-)

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