Air­port pa­tri­o­tism

Chi­nese tourists whip up mis­guided pa­tri­o­tism to solve com­mer­cial dis­putes abroad

Global Times - - Front Page - By Xu Ming

Many Chi­nese trav­el­ing abroad are re­tired se­nior cit­i­zens who ex­pe­ri­enced the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion and had ex­pe­ri­ence chant­ing red songs. At that time, chant­ing red songs al­ways helped unite peo­ple and power to­gether.” Mao Shou­long Pro­fes­sor of pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China

Avideo show­ing a large crowd of Chi­nese pas­sen­gers at an Ira­nian air­port shout­ing “China! China!” re­cently went vi­ral.

Hun­dreds of Chi­nese pas­sen­gers were stranded at the air­port due to bad weather on Jan­u­ary 29, when dis­con­tent grew among them for what they say were un­sat­is­fac­tory ac­com­mo­da­tions by the air­port. Later, upon learn­ing that the air­port would of­fer them free ho­tels with the as­sis­tance of the lo­cal Chi­nese em­bassy, they erupted with the cheer­ful chant­ing

Though some Chi­nese ne­ti­zens feel proud, oth­ers say they are “hu­mil­i­ated” by th­ese types of overly pa­tri­otic tourists, who are a “dis­grace of the coun­try.”

It was the third time in just one month that Chi­nese pas­sen­ger groups over­seas have “dis­turbed its moth­er­land” af­ter en­coun­ter­ing dis­putes at for­eign air­ports.

In early Jan­u­ary, a crowd of Chi­nese at a Tokyo air­port were spot­ted singing the Chi­nese na­tional an­them. On Jan­u­ary 27, af­ter 150 Chi­nese pas­sen­gers stuck for eight hours at a Sri Lanka air­port be­gan chant­ing, the lo­cal Chi­nese em­bassy is­sued a state­ment call­ing for “calm­ness.”

Some ne­ti­zens said bluntly that th­ese peo­ple are “bring­ing shame” to China by lead­ing peo­ple in other coun­tries to be­lieve that Chi­nese tourists are al­ways ready to show off their pa­tri­o­tism. Some me­dia also re­gard th­ese peo­ple as “kid­nap­ping na­tion­al­ism and pa­tri­o­tism” for their own per­sonal in­ter­ests.

“It is in­cred­i­ble that when­ever a flight is de­layed, whether or not due to ex­treme weather, the pa­tri­otic sen­ti­ment of Chi­nese pas­sen­gers at for­eign air­ports rises,” one ne­ti­zen sat­i­rized.

Ex­perts say that this be­hav­ior is “noth­ing sur­pris­ing” for Chi­nese who grew up in the 1960s or ear­lier, when al­most ev­ery­thing in their lives was re­lated to pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment.

“Grow­ing up at a time of pan-po­lit­i­cal­iza­tion, th­ese peo­ple have had their world view and be­hav­ior thor­oughly so­cial­ized,” said Qi Lin­gling, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics in Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity. “What we see now is just a con­tin­u­a­tion of that so­cial­iza­tion.”

Bring­ing peo­ple to­gether

Qiji, a young man born in the 1990s, told the Global Times that he was at the Tokyo air­port on Jan­u­ary 24 when the sign­ing erupted.

“It was re­ally dis­grace­ful,” said Qiji, re­call­ing that, on that day, he wit­nessed a Chi­nese woman clash­ing with air­port staff be­fore yelling “Ja­panese de­spise Chi­nese!” and mo­bi­liz­ing Chi­nese pas­sen­gers around her to chant the na­tional an­them.

“Then they started to sing again when the po­lice ar­rived and tried to take away the trou­ble­maker lady,” Qiji re­vealed.

As re­ported, 175 Chi­nese pas­sen­gers were stranded at the Tokyo air­port af­ter their flight to Shang­hai was can­celed due to heavy snow. But the tourists failed to un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion, which even­tu­ally led to the scene.

“If one feels be­ing wrongly treated [over­seas], he or she should have safe­guarded their rights in a sen­si­ble way,” Qiji said. “Shout­ing in the air­port, like that woman, will af­fect other pas­sen­gers and only bring shame on her­self.”

Such ir­ra­tional be­hav­ior by pas­sen­gers at Chi­nese air­ports is not un­com­mon, and th­ese scenes are rem­i­nis­cent of an­other age, when one waved their arms and shouted slo­gans and ev­ery­one else would fol­low.

How­ever, against a mod­ern, in­ter­na­tional back­ground, it can seem out of place.

“Many Chi­nese trav­el­ing abroad are re­tired se­nior cit­i­zens who ex­pe­ri­enced the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion and had ex­pe­ri­ence chant­ing red songs. At that time, chant­ing red songs al­ways helped unite peo­ple and power to­gether,” said Mao Shou­long, a pro­fes­sor of pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China.

Shout­ing “China!” and chant­ing the na­tional an­them are among the many means used by se­nior tourists to demon­strate their pa­tri­o­tism when they feel mis­treated over­seas. Such in­ci­dents, how­ever, are mostly com­mer­cial dis­putes caused by a lack of proper com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween pas­sen­gers

and staff.

“Chi­nese pas­sen­gers need to be more sen­si­ble when safe­guard­ing their rights. It is not proper to make ev­ery­thing rise to the level of pol­i­tics,” said Mao.

But Qi re­gards it as sub­con­scious be­hav­ior be­cause it is “how they op­er­ate in China al­ways, re­ly­ing on the gov­ern­ment for ev­ery­thing. It is so nat­u­ral for them that they may not even know why peo­ple are crit­i­ciz­ing them,” said Qi.

Traces of a time

As Qi ob­serves, such in­ci­dents are quite nat­u­ral con­sid­er­ing the his­tor­i­cal back­ground of th­ese peo­ple’s growth. “It is how they have been do­ing things in daily life. They just take the habit abroad.”

Af­ter the found­ing of PRC and be­fore the re­form and open­ing up, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion, China went through sev­eral decades when pol­i­tics was a pri­or­ity in ev­ery­one’s life and po­lit­i­cal el­e­ments in­fil­trated ev­ery corner of so­ci­ety.

At that time, ev­ery­thing a per­son said or did, even un­re­lated to pol­i­tics, could be in­ter­preted in terms of pol­i­tics. A per­son’s birth, school­ing, job hunt, mar­riage and even to death were all taken care of by the gov­ern­ment and based on pol­i­tics.

“Af­ter the re­form and open­ing up, the space for in­di­vid­u­al­ism in so­ci­ety has en­larged, so peo­ple now en­joy a di­ver­si­fied life. But the ideas of that time are deeply rooted in the minds of that gen­er­a­tion,” said Qi. “In ad­di­tion, China re­mains a so­cial­ist coun­try where the gov­ern­ment plays an im­por­tant role.”

In Septem­ber of 2015, Chi­nese tourists at an air­port in Bangkok chanted the na­tional an­them hand-in-hand af­ter their fight was de­layed and they were not con­tent with the air­port’s ar­range­ments. Sev­eral pas­sen­gers who ac­cepted the air­port’s ar­range­ment and did not join in the chant­ing re­port­edly were scolded as “traitors (to China).”

Mao calls such safe­guard­ing of “emo­tional” rights, which some­times blends com­mer­cial dis­putes with na­tion­al­ism, a “by-prod­uct of pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion.” “It is okay to demon­strate pa­tri­o­tism at will do­mes­ti­cally, but the same thing means some­thing dif­fer­ent when done in a for­eign land.”

A uni­ver­sity teacher, Qi said many in­ter­na­tional stu­dents un­fa­mil­iar with Chi­nese his­tory are con­fused about why China, which is a great power right now, con­tin­ues to ed­u­cate its peo­ple about its “cen­tury-old hu­mil­i­a­tion.”

“Pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion is very suc­cess­ful, which makes Chi­nese think of their moth­er­land when an emer­gency hap­pens. Mean­while, Chi­nese peo­ple are sen­si­tive about its hu­mil­i­at­ing his­tory,” said Qi, adding that it also makes many Chi­nese have a “vic­tim mind­set” when trav­el­ing in other coun­tries.

“It is mainly be­cause Chi­nese are not con­fi­dent enough,” said Qi, call­ing for Chi­nese pas­sen­gers to be more sen­si­ble.

Be­com­ing more ra­tio­nal

Dur­ing the Tehran air­port in­ci­dent, to reach the stranded Chi­nese pas­sen­gers, the lo­cal Chi­nese em­bassy ne­go­ti­ated with lo­cal po­lice and signed a se­cu­rity guar­an­tee be­fore get­ting spe­cial per­mis­sion to drive through the blocked high­way due to heavy snow.

As Xu Wei, a min­is­ter-coun­selor from the em­bassy, re­vealed to the Global Times, their car was the only ve­hi­cle on the high­way, which pushed through like a snow­plow for four hours.

“A Chi­nese am­bas­sador once told me that too many com­mer­cial dis­putes in­volv­ing Chi­nese trav­el­ers have af­fected the fo­cus of their em­bassy’s work,” Mao said.

While help­ing their coun­try­men, three Chi­nese em­bassies is­sued pub­lic no­tices call­ing for Chi­nese pas­sen­gers to keep calm and safe­guard their in­ter­est ac­cord­ing to the law.

The for­eign min­istry of China also is­sued a no­tice re­mind­ing its cit­i­zens trav­el­ing abroad to read their con­tracts with the air­lines care­fully when they buy cheap tick­ets, which may not of­fer free meals or ac­com­mo­da­tions, and to avoid us­ing ex­treme means to de­mand ser­vices not writ­ten in the con­tract.

Th­ese peo­ple were also harshly crit­i­cized by some Chi­nese me­dia and ne­ti­zens, de­scribed as “giant ba­bies” in head­lines.

“It is in­ter­est­ing that main­stream me­dia have be­gun to crit­i­cize such be­hav­ior. It shows that the gov­ern­ment is be­com­ing more ra­tio­nal,” said Qi, who called for more tol­er­ance for th­ese peo­ple, tak­ing their back­ground into con­sid­er­a­tion.

“It has only been a short time since or­di­nary Chi­nese peo­ple started to travel abroad. The ma­jor­ity are not able to un­der­stand many things from the an­gle of an in­ter­na­tional ci­ti­zen yet. A lot of peo­ple are still very Chi­nese,” said Qi.

“Thirty years later, when the younger gen­er­a­tions born in 1980s and 1990s reach their age, the sit­u­a­tion will be much bet­ter.”

Re­cent videos of Chi­nese tourists stranded at for­eign air­ports shout­ing “China!” and singing the na­tional an­them have em­bar­rassed other Chi­nese cit­i­zens

Many of th­ese tourists are mid­dle-aged or se­niors who were raised in more pa­tri­otic times

Photo: VCG

Pas­sen­gers whose flight was de­layed, due to heavy fog, de­mand apol­ogy from air­line at Chang­shui Air­port in Kun­ming, Yun­nan Prov­ince.

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