China’s economic growth has created new ways of influencing other nations, both those who are friendly and those who to one degree or another are considered ‘hostile' by China. Stratfor recently analysed one specific area where this influence will be especially effective for China – tourism. “One overlooked tactic is Beijing’s control over how many of its citizens it allows to go abroad and where they can visit… Flows of Chinese tourists will be an unexpected tool of statecraft, raising the potential for sharp disruptions to the travel and aviation sectors. These risks are particularly high in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, but extend across Southeast Asia and into the islands of the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific..”
There are two significant reasons for this new power in the hands of the Chinese government. The first is the massive growth in China’s middle class. “In 1999, under 3 percent of China's population — around 29 million people — could have been considered middle class (Pew Research). By 2013, that number had ballooned to 421 million people, or over one-quarter of China’s population.” From 29 million to 421 million in less than 20 years; that represents a significant pot of new money that China can use to influence other nations.
The second reason is the massive growth in travel by China’s citizens. As Stratfor comments: “Despite its relatively late start, China now outsends and outspends all other countries in tourism. Beijing only began allowing international tourism in the 1978 reform period, but tourism has grown dramatically since the country truly opened up in the late 1990s. Over the past two decades, Chinese tourism has risen by a factor of 25, climbing from 5.3 million in 1997 to 130 million in 2017.” Indeed in 2017 “Chinese tourists poured $258 billion into the global economy. This puts their spending at double that of U.S. tourists and triple that of German ones... And there is much room to grow. Goldman Sachs projects that by 2025, more than 220 million tourists per year will venture forth from China.”
The result is obvious. “The Chinese government will be able to direct and regulate this flow to punish or reward countries as it pursues its foreign policy goals. Unlike other near-peer tourism senders, the structure of China’s tourism sector makes it relatively easy for the central government to act as gatekeeper to this lucrative market.” For example, “by granting countries Approved Destination Status. This designation regulates where Chinese package tour groups are authorized to go and how tours are marketed in mainland China. As of 2017, 146 countries have been given this status, which Beijing has wielded to shape behaviour… Chinese travel agencies are particularly important because they send group package tours overseas, accounting for a full 44 percent of Chinese tourism abroad. Beijing can and has imposed bans on selling tours to certain countries. And if agencies don't sell group tours to particular destinations, tourist numbers from China can drop dramatically.”
Tourism is indeed a new ‘weapon’!
Pray first that churches in nations visited by Chinese tourists would take the opportunity to share the Gospel with their guests.
Pray for nations impacted by China’s use of the “tourism weapon” to know how to respond.
Pray as always for the Chinese leadership along the lines of 1 Timothy 2:1-6 (look it up before you pray!).
Source: “China's Unlikely Weapon: Tourists” By Evan Rees, Stratfor. (https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/chinas-unlikely-weapon-tourists)
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