- Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority
Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority is a fascinating read, not so much for its factual content, but for the way the information is analyzed and presented to the audience. The author makes no implicit statement about for whom this book is written. The publisher, however, thoughtfully includes the comments of two experts on China who are academics in universities in the United States. Professor Robert Weller of Boston University states that the book "is presented in a way that makes it plausible for undergraduate use." Professor Tim Oaks of the University of Colorado at Boulder believes it to be "of great interest in tourism studies, the China field more generally, and to non-China specialists with interests in cross-cultural perspectives on tourism." The book is then presumably meant for consumption in the West by students and scholars of China in general, and of tourism in particular.
The book, however, is equally, if not more, valuable to the practitioners of China tourism outside China, particularly in the West, and to the students, scholars, and practitioners of tourism within China. To the former, the book offers insightful glimpses of Chinese tourists' behavioral profiles. Destinations and tourism businesses in the West would benefit from an opportunity to understand a consumer market of gigantic proportions. Such opportunity, however, would be optimized only if they are ready to compromise their values and norms in order to accommodate those of Chinese tourists, and if they focus on the factual elements of the book sans the lenses that the author prescribes for the audience.
To the students, scholars, and practitioners of tourism within China, however, the lenses are what make the book worthy and are where the gold is buried. To uncover the gold, they must be ready to put on the lenses as they are, but swallow their pride and the sense of arrogance and superiority in being the emerging superpower of international tourism. "Oh wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursel's as others see us!" A Chinese equivalent of the advice from Robert Burns is "get a mirror for yourself." Indeed, not knowing or refusing to appreciate how China tourism and the Chinese tourists are perceived by the West, the evolving pride among the Chinese would undo the progress of China tourism and cause "monie a blunder" and many a "foolish notion."
The lenses through which the author gazes at China tourism in all four chapters are tainted bifocals. One of the bifocals sets the discourse of China tourism in the Cold War context. The very beginning of the first chapter [End Page 583] ("What's in a Site? The Making of 'Scenic Spots'") immediately draws a comparison between China and the Soviet Union. The comparison between China and Russia appears in numerous places later in the book. The common ground where the comparison seems warranted is none other than the communist ideology shared by the Soviet Union and China prior to the disintegration of the former. While such comparison may be conveniently embraced by the student and scholar of tourism in the West where the Cold War mindset still prevails in many sectors, the Chinese audience will be puzzled by such comparison. Some will find it peculiar and even humiliating, knowing that China is more successful that Russia in liberalizing its economic prowess, and that its status is unparalleled by Russia in both the inbound and outbound markets of international tourism. However, it is precisely the Cold War mindset that Chinese students, scholars, and practitioners of tourism must be aware of as they strive to present China tourism onto a global platform. For years to become, China will remain securitized by the West as a communist state, no matter how little communistic and socialist China and Chinese tourists have become.
When the lenses tainted with the Cold War mindset are removed, however, this chapter effectively informs the Western reader of...