Tourists Visiting China, Beware: The Party is Preparing ‘Red Tourism’
The Summer Palace in Beijing is a major tourist attraction. Once an imperial garden during the Qing dynasty, the compound boasts lakes, gardens, and palaces surrounded by picturesque hills. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998.
But soon, tourists visiting the grounds will find an office dedicated to spreading Chinese Communist propaganda.
On Oct. 30, the historic site announced that it would establish a ”Party Representative Office” that can provide services and promote the Party’s spirit to people, reported Chinese news portal Sina.
The initiative is part of the China National Tourism Administration’s recent effort at promoting “red tourism.” The Administration’s director Li Jinzao told the staff at a recent meeting the importance of spreading Party ideology, alongside other more mundane improvements such as toilets, safety, and encouraging tourism to the countryside.
A tour guide at the palace expressed enthusiasm for spreading Party propaganda at her workplace, in an interview with the state-run newspaper Legal Evening News. “Through the representative office, I will do a good job in promoting our Party’s policies and spirit, and tell them the Party’s situation,” said Han Xiao.
For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has extended its ideological influence outside its borders, while trying to limit Western influence within the country. For example, the CCP has established Confucius Institutes at academic institutions around the world to disseminate Party ideology to students. At the same time, the CCP is wary of any potential introduction of Western values like freedom of thought and speech. In 2015 the Party once considered enforcing a ban on textbooks in Chinese schools that introduce Western thoughts and values.
Now, unwitting travelers visiting China will likely get schooled—by Party officials stationed at tourist sites.
As for Western attractions, such as the Shanghai Disney Resort and the soon-to-open Beijing Universal Studios, it is unclear whether they will also have to comply with the Tourism Administration’s renewed emphasis on Party propaganda.
Foreign-funded companies have already been pressured by the CCP to establish Party organizations within their Chinese offices—about 70 percent of them have already done so, according to recent comments by Qi Yu, deputy head of the CCP’s Organization Department.
In a story about the subject, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Murray King, vice president for public affairs at the Shanghai Disney Resort, told a local Chinese newspaper that the best employees at the resort are mostly CCP members who regularly hold political seminars discussing Party doctrine at the company.
Despite all this effort to spread Party loyalty, people are slowly losing their obedience. A campaign to collect overdue Party membership dues last year collected about 277 million yuan (about US$41.8 million) owed by over 120,000 party members working in state-run companies in Tianjin City alone, according to The Wall Street Journal.