The experience of visiting China

Chinas image abroad.

China is said to be the worlds up and coming super power but as western tourists is all we are told about China country true? To help answer this question I have been conducting interviews with people who are not native to China but have been there as tourists. They have seen both sides and had many quite differing opinions.

When conducting my interviews I realised most people had either a very positive view or a very negative view of the country. I feel this maybe was to due with outside circumstances however. For example one person I interviewed visits China for work and connections with the universities where as another was just in China for a few days.

Weather people where prepared for it or not China seems to be a culture shock. A common thing that was mentioned was the rich to poor divide. People were not prepared for it. In China 1% of the population own 99% of the wealth. For example one person I interviewed is living in China working as a creative manager His example was:
‘In my workplace, there are around 250 staff. Only around 2 or 3 of these staff earn more than £1000 a month, with the rest earning significantly less. Everywhere you go, you see beggars and very poor looking people. You also meet very rich people who throw their money around without thinking twice. What I have noticed is that there is no middle ground, people are either rich or poor.’

The conclusion from my interviews on this topic seems to be that China’s portrayed to be very technology forward and lot wealthier than it seems whilst there. The difference between the Chinese people is not shown to the rest of the world and the poverty shocks people.

Many people weren’t prepared for the language barrier China has. As English speakers we are very complacent in thinking everyone will speak a little English. From my interviews although China maybe appears through the media to be going through globalization when visiting there it seems people are still surprised to see a European. The Chinese have different mannerism as well and people didn’t expect this. It is very foreign compared to visiting other countries. People have been brought up differently and behave differently to how we would in the West. People spit on buses and ‘kamikaze’ across roads. I was told a story by one of the interviewees that a tour guide told them he had never left Beijing and never would. All his money went to his family and for a wedding. He was shocked that two girls were traveling across the world and had funded it themselves. This culture shock is not something people realised about China before they were there. It not something that is shown or made obvious to the rest of the world but perhaps this is something that should be expected? And it is no different from the rest of the world. One interviewee said ‘ There may be a lot hidden from western media but our county hides a lot too.’

Politically the West portrays China very negatively with a lack of freedom of speech and no voting system but from the people I interviewed a different story comes out. Having spoken to Chinese people they are very positive about the government, which is there by consent.

‘I spoke to a local about the birds nest that had just been built for the Olympics he as extremely positive even though he had made it clear the governments controversial spending meant a lot of poor Chinese had no way out of deprivation.’

China shows itself to the world as being united politically and it seems to be. As long as the country is growing the Chinese people are positive and support the government. It was also said that the government is bigger part of people’s lives. The party is involved in the universities and is always around. Some people were surprised at how capitalist China was as it is always said to be communist and is associated with communism.

So given what I learnt and heard does China sell it self to tourists. Does this affect it trying to show itself as a modern country? Perhaps China is trying to hard to be modern. The vast division between the rich and poor means it isn’t the modern country it tries to make itself appear to be. The impression that concludes is that the amount of money spent in making China look superficially modern, that could be spent on its poverty, is perhaps the reason it appears not to be modern when there. They seem to put a lot of money into looking good, photo shopping pictures, rather than dealing with the countries underlying issues that seem to be more urgently needing addressed.

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China’s Image Abroad

China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations with a history and culture that spans over several centuries. Today, China is considered one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Modern China’s economy is based significantly on the export of products. However, one of their biggest imports is tourism, which has become a monumental part of modern day China. With its historic landmarks and unique culture, China attracts people from all over the world. China is a country where the old meets the new.

Allison Weiner, a 20-year-old college student from New York, stated that her only real knowledge of China was based on the Disney movie, Mulan, a children’s film about a girl who joins the Chinese army in ancient China. “When I think of China and its culture, I honestly refer back to that movie,” said Weiner. Though the film, Mulan, is partly fictional, it does include animated scenes depicting the Great Wall of China and Beijing’s Forbidden City. At a young age, Weiner was introduced to the stereotypical imagery found in China. Weiner then states after reflecting back on the movie, ”Nothing in America is that old. I know that the Chinese architecture I saw in Mulan still stands in China today.” With America being such a young country, Weiner felt captivated by China’s vast history and ancient traditions. However interested she was in China’s history, Weiner was a bit skeptical about modern China. It was clear that her appreciation of China’s past was not the same when it came to her views of the Chinese government. Weiner was a bit intimidated by the harsh stories she’d heard about China’s oppressive government. Her current opinion of China appeared quite different from her childhood fantasy of China. She admitted that she was a bit reluctant to visit. Glasgow resident and Scottish University student, Rebecca Clow, age 19, finds herself fascinated by Chinese culture because of how different it is from her own. She understands that as a European, her exposure to Chinese culture has been altered by western influence. She is eager to experience the authentic China and learn more about their way of life. Clow is drawn to the natural landscape of China and the vast beauty it possess. In the eyes of westerners and people who have never been to China, it is represented as a country with an extensive past. Though certain political aspects are still ambiguous to most, people are enticed to travel there out of sheer curiosity.

From the perspective of two Chinese citizens, China is indeed an exotic destination. Fan Xu, age 22, from Shanghai, believes that tourists are drawn to China because it is so mysterious. The old oriental features and ancient sites attract people from all over the world. The architecture and even the people have very specific characteristics. People are inherently interested in the unknown and the different.  By coming to China, tourists are introduced to the old China and the new China. The collision of both worlds is exciting to many. Diamond Ng, age 22, from Hong Kong, agrees that the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and the recently built Olympic stadium in Beijing are key contributors to tourism in China. When asked if China was accurately represented to tourists, Diamond stated that it was somewhat accurate but not entirely. She mentioned that there are beautiful places in China but there are other aspects that are hidden behind the beauty. The government, however, should not deter people from visiting China. Censorship has been an issue in China, limiting the freedom of speech for many, but this issue has lessened in recent years due to the Internet. Diamond went on to explain that those who are kept out of China are typically citizens who have spoken out frequently and negatively against the government, “Most tourist are not being monitored. Only those who are sensitive to political interest are monitored. Normal tourists are all welcome.”

Tourists have clear expectations as to what China has to offer. People who have never visited appear to know about all the featured places and famous attractions. There seems to be much more to China then what is represented in the media. Even though China is a rapidly developing modern country, the ancient aspects of China seem to be exploited over the contemporary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

China’s Image Abroad

21st Century China is a land of great contrast. Traditional farming villages now find themselves in the shadow of bustling, rapidly expanding cities, where both rich and poor are forced to adapt to life in this ever-changing landscape.

Attracting more tourists now than ever before, I decided it would be useful to interview people who haven’t been to China, in order to find out whether or not China is succeeding in their efforts to ‘sell’ themselves as both a modern country and exciting tourist destination.

When I asked people ‘what first comes to mind when you think of China?’ I received a variety of answers ranging from pandas to porcelain, however when I asked what they thought of the country as a tourist destination I got something slightly different…

The majority of people I spoke to believe that a trip to China would be a sightseeing holiday more than anything else, with references to the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army, Tiananmen Square and of course the Great Wall. It would be a trip involving lots of travelling from one landmark to the next, each one packed with tourists, so certainly not a relaxing beach holiday. However, a small number of people I spoke to explained that they find it difficult to imagine China as a tourist destination at all; it is something that has never crossed their minds. They see it as intimidating and inaccessible. Interestingly, this group were all of an age that when growing up, China would still have been a fairly closed country, therefore, grew up somewhat unfamiliar with their culture.

I was surprised to find that the number of people I interviewed that would be interested in visiting China equalled the number of people that would not. By far the most popular reason given for wanting to travel to China is simply ‘to experience the culture.’ Other aspects that seem to attract people are, the traditional architecture, the fantastic sights and of course the food.  However, probably more important are the things that seem to be putting people off…

It would appear that a number of the people I spoke to seem intimidated by the Chinese Communist government, some so much so that this is the sole reason that they would be unlikely to visit the country. An interesting response I received is that China is currently a land of massive social and economic inequality, an inequality that, in taking part in tourism there, you could potentially be contributing to. Meaning that money generated by tourism would be going straight into rapidly growing metropolises such as Shanghai and Beijing, rather than supporting the large population of people living in poor farming communities outside the cities.

Other issues that put people off the idea of visiting China include;

  • The obvious pollution in cities such as Beijing.
  • How busy the cities are with people and traffic.
  • The language barrier.
  • The noise
  • The amount of travel involved, long flights and transfers.
  • The food, the Chinese are renowned for eating things that we would see as strange.
  • Too much of a culture shock, overwhelming.

Although perfectly understandable reasons to be apprehensive, personally I believe that to truly ‘experience the culture’ you must experience it ALL, the good, the slightly odd and the completely unfamiliar.

Finally I asked people how they imagine China to look in their mind, the answers I received seem to be one of two extremes, either the traditional rural vision of China, or the ultramodern opposite, bustling cities packed with people and skyscrapers. So I suppose you could say that yes, they are in fact succeeding in depicting themselves as a modern, exciting country, as most of the people I spoke to mentioned busy metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai. However, people also spoke about how the traditional, more historic areas appeal to them more, which makes me think, in their efforts to build China into this modern superpower, are they destroying too much of the very thing that makes them unique? By constructing more and more skyscrapers and highways at such an alarming rate, historical parts of towns and cities, for example, traditional hutongs and courtyard houses, are disappearing just as fast. I can’t help but think that in China’s desperate bid to catch up with western cities such as New York or London, they may be losing sight of the very thing that inspires people to experience China, the unique culture and history.

China’s Image Abroad

Over the past few decades the world has seen tourism in China expand enormously.  It is now the third most visited country in the world and in 2010 alone it saw 55.98 million tourists explore its incredible culture.

So what is it that attracts so many to this historical country?

That is what I aim to find out.  I want to discover how China is “sold” to potential tourists through travel brochures and sites.  I want to show what these travel agents have to offer and how they encourage this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip.

Over the years, china has seen a lot of destruction and as a result has had to construct new ‘historic’ buildings or temples from scratch to promote tourism.  It does, however, still hold some of the greatest wonders of the world.

The first thing I noticed when looking at these travel brochures and sites were the glorified photographs.  Whilst that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I began to see similarities between many of the photos and all these sites were promoting the same tourist attractions; The Great Wall of China, the Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, The Forbidden Palace and Tian’anmen Square.  These are the main tourist attractions, but China has a lot more to offer.

Most travel sites offer a variety of holiday’s packages, including family holidays, group holidays, holidays for those travelling alone and those for students.  However, most are encouraging group tours. During my research I came across a travel site called Wendy Wu Tours.  This site offers an experience that is slightly different to any I’ve seen before.  It promotes group tours depending on your fitness level.  There are three categories; comfortable, medium and active paced tours.   I think this is a great way to promote a holiday, however like many group tours you are given a few days to explore China for yourself and for many who are left without the security of a tour guide who knows the culture and language it can be very hard to adjust to and can be very challenging.

When it comes to advice, most travel sites don’t offer much on what to be aware of and most are promoting group tours.  But Travel the Real China is a website that gives brilliant advice on places to go, what to be aware of and gives an account of someone’s personal experiences.  He’s honest about the things he struggled with such as the language barrier but also says that ‘Seeing and experiencing the Real China will change your life’ everything from the sights and the sounds to the people and the amazing food.  Along with Travel the Real China, Audley Travel gives an incredible account of China and what to expect.  It provides itinerary ideas, suggested accommodation, travel guides, the best time of year to go and specialist knowledge.

Tourists are clearly drawn to this country’s incredible culture, its history and the stories it has to tell, but how much longer will this last? China is under threat from rapid monderisation.  Many communities have been destroyed to make room for China’s booming population and the only way to do this is by building tall blocks of apartments where these small communities once lived.   Whilst Thomson travel sites promotes a fascinating holiday that tells a story of two countries, one being ‘an ancient kingdom embedded in the past, the other an electrifying agent of change’ it also warns tourists that ‘the China of old threatens to disappear forever’ due to ongoing changes in its economy.

All these travel sites and brochures offer different things but all of them continue to encourage tourists to visit this incredible country; a country that has a reputation for exceptional hospitality and a culture that is so inspiring.

Thomson describe its China tours as a way to ‘discover the unique rural landscape in all its glory’, Thomas Cook describes it as ‘unmissable’ and Audley Travel say ‘China is truly a country of thrilling contrasts, bursting with energy and magic.’

I suppose it’s the same with any holiday, no matter how much research you do beforehand you never know what to expect until you experience it for yourself.  For me, I’d love to experience the Real China.

Pop Culture in China: Music and Cinema

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Pop Culture in China, with particular interest in the cinema and music, while we in the west may not know much about it, is just as important and as big as our own, only within their own culture. Unlike the west, where big stars may emerge from the United Kingdom or America, and go onto become a word wide phenomenon, a Chinese pop star will only really experience the fame within their own culture. The same can be said for things like their cinema, music, comics, and animation – it’s very much kept within China and not shared with the rest of the world, whether it be down to lack of success outside China, or simply that it’s not shared with the rest of the world.

The music scene is huge in China, while you may initially think of Chinese music being the traditional, and easily recognisable flute, string and cymbals (which, it’s important to add is still a large part of Chinese culture today), it is in fact very similar to our own music scene – they have pop (dubbed “C-pop” 中文流行音乐), rock, hip hop, and so on. C-Pop remains the most popular form of music today in China, boasting many singers and bands, along with award ceremonies and music tours.


While C-pop emerged from the 1920’s, Chinese hip hop is a very new and still emerging genre for them, only first appearing in the 1980’s, and more so in the early 2000’s when Eminems movie “8 Mile”, and along with other movies which helped increase the growth of Chinese hip hop. A lot of their hip hop is performed in english as they don’t feel Chinese works well or is suitable

Chinese Rock too is a very new genre in China, as the same with hip hop, it first emerged in the late 1980’s. These songs started off very political and idealistic, moving onto become quite vulgar and negative (Chi Zhiqiang 迟志强 Starting this particular genre of rock off, singing about his time in jail). During the early 90’s it hit its peak in the music scene, but due to strict censorship by the Communist party of banning rock music on tv and heavy restrictions on their performances, it started a slow decline into an underground culture. In 2004-2005 an American filmmaker Kevin Frtiz followed the Chinese Rock band “Beijing’s Joyside” on their first tour of China to make the film “Wasted Orient”, which comically depicts the pitfalls and hardship of trying to tour in China, where there is little taste for rock music.

“The film Wasted Orient is what it is pure and simple. It’s honest. It is the true way of Chinese rock n’ roll. It’s not glamorous. It’s filthy. It’s filled with despair. It’s very unwanted in that society and is shown in its citizens’ apathetic response to it” – Kevin Fritz

In Chinese cinema, they face some of the same restrictions as those within the rock music industry, there is heavy censorship from any films that contain political overtones, and many are simply outright banned in China. Despite this, China remains the third largest film industry of feature films produced yearly. Films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “House of Flying Daggers” are Chinese films that were very successful overseas, the former of which is the most commercially successful foreign film in US cinema, and provided a great introduction to Chinese cinema for many people, and helped increase popularity in older Chinese films that would have otherwise, been left unknown.

Chinese cinema doesn’t contain a motion picture rating system, so all films must be deemed suitable for all ages to watch, or it is not allowed to be screened. In the case of films such as those that come from Hollywood, many scenes and footage is cut out to be allowed to be screened. Some films are outright banned altogether, for example James Cameron’s Avatar was banned (though notably only in 2D) because it was thought it would possibly incite violence. Chinese censors also only clear 20 foreign films a year to be shown in the country, though through counterfeit DVD’s, people are freely able to obtain all internationally released films.

With the ever-growing popularity of things like the internet, being able to listen to Chinese Music, or watch Chinese cinema through streaming rental sites, or buying CD’s and DVD’s online, it’s much easier to obtain a better insight into these ever-growing area’s of Chinese pop culture these days, than it ever has been.

China’s Representation in British Media/Politics

China’s long running affair with the British media has been very mixed, full of stories of grand events and vibrant culture. However, it suffers a very negative perception, and one that is in a way hypocritical.

The reason this perception is so, is that China is just doing what the other super powers (Britain, USA and Russia) have previously done. China is expanding at a huge rate, and its ever-growing economy is leaving Britain and others feeling very intimidated. This constant negativity regarding their growth, consumption and with it, environmental damage is ruining the brand of China. Her rapid development has left politicians and leaders worldwide, very anxious, and when watching news reports on events such as the G20 summits, they hound China into the corner and accuse her of harming the world. We have gone through the same process and this makes it very hypocritical to attempt to hinder China’s progress. The country is on the rise, and it is time the media accepted this.

China’s Human rights record is a monumental issue currently, and the British press are slaughtering China. Although the vast majority outside of China agree, as does our group, that there is much work to be done to solve this issue and truly allow China to progress, stories of British and American troops denying Iraqi and Afghan prisoners their human rights again cry hypocrisy, or as they say, the pot calling the kettle black. China is darkened by its troubles with freedom of speech and rights, but as a developing country, it still has time to correct this, and it should not be used as a standing point to degrade China. Only time will tell if it can correct its wrongs and finally be presented in the media in its cultural glory.

However, the media, especially televised news, can shine light on China, and a stand out example of this is Chinese New Year. The media go into frenzy, showing the festivals in their glory, and highlighting the morals of being with family, and the messages of hope that these New Year celebrations rest on. The cultural in China is vast and vibrant, and is a great tool to emphasise to the world what it can offer. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2012/jan/22/chinese-new-year-celebrations-pictures#/?picture=384838244&index=9)

The Beijing Olympic Games of 2008, although surrounded in criticism regarding their human rights issues, and its pressing environmental issues, allowed China to sell itself to the whole world – and it succeeded. An opening ceremony, which broadcast too over 5.5 million UK viewers, showed the colours, and dances and music, tradition and culture that it lived and breathed in. Costing £3000 a second, China made a huge statement to world, and the media’s endless coverage still has a lasting impact on the selling of China.

The recent appearance of two Pandas, Tian Tian and Ying Guang, at Edinburgh zoo has also created mass media attention. This has also created a huge tourist boost, and can only do well in China’s attempts to sell itself to the world. Is has also improved the relations between Britain and China, and has been taken favourably by the majority of the media, with the story making front page of newspapers for a considerable period.

Tian Tian - whose name means Sweetie, enjoying a well earned rest.

Mr Liu Xiaoming, ambassador of China to the UK, said: “This historical agreement is a gift to the people of the UK from China. It will represent an important symbol of our friendship and will bring our two people closer together”

On the other hand, many have unfairly criticised this as a move to turn attention away from China’s human rights record.

In summary, China is a country that does have its problems, and these are frequently depicted to the British public by the media. However, although they must be considered we all must bear in mind that China is still and up and coming super power, and still has time to develop and correct its issues.  The media has the power to sell China to us, and when it broadcasts huge events like the Olympic games, or the arrival of the pandas, it allows us to see the good side of China, one full of culture and tradition beyond imagination. China is already changing its ways, and, as long as it continues, it will continue to sell itself to the world.

Inside China

The British flag was lowered over Government House in Hong Kong – at midnight 1st July 1997. Since then, Hong Kong had handed back to the Chinese authorities, and ended the British control for more than 150 years. The handover comes with the freedom of ‘One Country Two Systems’ in this Special Administrative Region for fifty years and it is granted to remain as an individual city with its own government and policies.

In the past fifteen years, China’s growing prosperity and the rising international status has shocked the world. Despite the fact that china has become the country that everyone is talking about, the population in Hong Kong that claimed themselves as “Chinese” people are decreasing significantly.

A recent survey about the “Strength of Chinese Citizen Identity”, conducted by the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme (HKU POP), found people in Hong Kong that would identify themselves as “Chinese Citizen” has dropped to the lowest record in the past twelve years while those would identify themselves as” Hong Kong Citizen” has raised to the highest in the past ten years.

The China’s economic growth and development are running in counter to the identification of Hong Kong people. This is difficult for others to work out the reason, and as the survey point out, it may be outside the scope of the economic effects. Since Hong Kong is returned to China from 1997, it is struggling on finding its own identity. The central dilemma in Hong Kong is on how to redefine itself now as part of China.

While Hong Kong is getting more and more interactions with China in different aspects, the underlying political, social, moral and cultural values, as well as language, between Hong Kong and Mainland China are still very distinct. The previous colonial background has left Hong Kong a very different intrinsic value on system of education, transportation, architecture, mass media etc. Many facilities came together when their core values were introduced in Hong Kong based on the British model. It is undeniable that Hong Kong was profoundly affected by the western culture. In the contrary, China has a long history with its own oriental cultural values and different systems of the development as compared to Hong Kong. Therefore, the merger of these two places with different cultural values must be handled with care.

Starting from Year 2005, Hong Kong government has loosened the requirement on the visiting visa of Chinese citizens as well as the immigration requirement. There are 150 quotas per day for immigrants from China to immigrate into Hong Kong. Since then, there are more and more Chinese tourists and immigrants flowing into Hong Kong. This has greatly boosted the tourism industry as well as the service industry and has created many opportunities for Hong Kong. In the meantime, the large numbers of new immigrants – which accounts to 55,000 per years- are usually with lower education level and are difficult for them to find a job in the place. Therefore most of these new immigrants are living under the government benefits and sometimes criticized for slowing down the economy of the Hong Kong and putting more burdens on taxpayers. This is widely discussed among Hong Kong society that this huge number of low-skilled immigrants flowing into Hong Kong is a great burden to the whole city. As compared to other countries in the world, immigration requirement usually tends to attract high-educated and skilled labours to the benefits of the place. Therefore, this policy in Hong Kong is widely discussed and it sometimes imposes negative feeling on new immigrants by the locals.

Recently, many pregnant women in China try to arrange to go to Hong Kong to give birth, so that the baby can have a Hong Kong Residence. However, the huge numbers of booking by these groups of non-local mothers had even excessed the total numbers of local mothers. It has put a greater burden on the whole medical and hospital system in Hong Kong. After the government has imposed certain quotas for non-local mothers to give birth, in order to ease the medical situation, nevertheless, certain mainland mothers still try to come to Hong Kong without pregnancy bookings and go to the Accident and Emergency department of hospitals to give birth. This is heavily affecting the normal medical system in Hong Kong. With many criticisms in the Hong Kong society, the quarrel between Hong Kong people and Chinese people has become fiercer.

As a unique area in China, Hong Kong has attracted different people around China to pose opportunities. In the contrary, there are also many underlying issues that diverges the two kinds of people. In this great time of China, Hong Kong people’s recognition of Chinese identity seems to be some kind of quiet protest towards the country. The move from colonial to Chinese rule has proved a wrenching experience, a psychological rupture that could take years to resolve.