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61 3 Tourism in Contemporary China I n Maoist China, tourism was seen as an element of bourgeois lifestyle and was therefore, in principle, taboo (Zhang Guangrui 2003a:15). But soon after Mao’s death, the goverment began promoting incoming tourism as a way to earn foreign currency. The policy toward domestic tourism at the time was known as the three don’ts (don’t support, don’t promote, don’t oppose). This ambivalent attitude reflected a fear that domestic tourism bred immoral behavior, wasted resources, and distracted the population from productive activities; in particular, there was a belief that official “study and inspection trips” served as cover for tourism funded from state coffers and involving lots of banqueting, prostitution , and gambling. The precipitous decision in 1998 to designate tourism a new key growth area of the national economy (guomin jingji xin zengzhangdian) and, the following year, to create three weeks of public holidays was triggered by the Asian financial crisis and the government’s urgent need to increase domestic consumer demand (Wei Xiaoan 2001:246). In 1999, the Policy and Regulation Division of the National Tourism Authority even proposed a National Tourism Plan with the aim to “truly make tourism a part of the people’s common consumer practices.”1 Although no Tourism Plan was enacted, the introduction of the three-week holidays (around the state holidays of May 1 and October 1 and the traditional Spring Festival holiday) resulted in a revolution in Chinese leisure. The holiday periods, which came to be known as golden weeks, became times for the urban consumer class to travel. In a 2002 survey of more than 4,200 residents in ten cities—Peking, Shanghai, Canton, Wuhan, Chengdu, Shenyang, Xian, Zhengzhou, Jinan, and Xiamen—24 percent of respondents said they had traveled at least once during the golden weeks in the year before (Horizon Research 2002). All of a sudden, tourism gained prominence as a lifestyle attribute of the higher-income, urban population and began spreading to an increasingly large part of Chinese society.2 The state’s role, both administrative and pedagogical, in engineering this change cannot be overestimated. While the crucial 1998 decision to promote tourism was justified in terms of economic development (Wei et al. 1999:4), it coincided with the appearance of the term “leisure culture” (xiuxian wenhua) in the government’s “civilization campaigns” as an attribute of the “modern and civilized citizen /bourgeois (shimin)” (J. Wang 2001:39–41).3 Unlike in the West where hotel nights are the most common tourism indicator, Chinese tourism authorities use ticket sales data from tourist sites, or scenic spots (jingdian, also jingqu), recognized and classified by the state, to gauge the volume of domestic tourism. As far as the state and the tourism business are concerned, the map of China consists of a network of scenic spots ranging from imperial palaces and revolutionary memorials to nature reserves and fenced villages. Ticket sales from scenic spots constitute the backbone of state-owned tourism corporations’ income, and many local governments see the sale of management rights of scenic spots to investors—all land in China being the “property of the people”—as the brightest prospect of generating revenue. By contrast, domestic travel to other locations, or travel that does not engage these state-sanctioned sites, falls outside tourism statistics. Thus, tourism in China is understood by its managers as the consumption of bounded and controlled zones. As I have argued (Nyíri 2006a), this understanding is Tourism in Contemporary China 63 based on the premodern tradition of literati travel, which consisted of revisiting nature sites, literally and figuratively inscribed with the poetry and essays of cultural heroes and canonized for their cultural and historical significance. The image of the tourist as self-educating explorer, selfbettering sportsman, or romantic flâneur, characteristic of the Western evolution of tourism, is not part of Chinese cultural history and was not accessible to fledgling Chinese tourists in the 1990s. The reconstruction of key tourist sites after the depredations of the Cultural Revolution and their rehabilitation as part of national culture began right after Deng Xiaoping’s accession to power. For many buildings , this meant constructing them anew. Some structures of iconic cultural significance were “restored” even though they had disappeared long before and their site was no longer exactly known. Reenactments of historical ceremonies at famous sites became widely popular (Sofield and Li 1998:378). Traditional views of landscape and architecture spread by means of wall calendars...


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