China issues warning over traveling to US

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/4 19:08:40

US is destroying its reputation for welcoming openness: expert

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and Tourism hold a press conference on Tuesday, issuing a warning on the risk of traveling in the US. Photo: Zhao Yusha/GT

One day after China issued a warning over studying in the US, two of the country's key ministries on Tuesday issued another alert over travel to the US, the latest measure to counter the negative consequences Chinese people are facing after the escalation of the US-initiated trade war, which has spread beyond broad economic measures to target the technology, education and tourism sectors. 

US law enforcement departments have been increasingly harassing Chinese nationals in the US by questioning them as they enter or exit the country, as well as talking to them in their homes, Chen Xiongfeng, deputy director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a Tuesday press conference in Beijing.

Chen said that Chinese nationals traveling to the US and Chinese companies operating in the US should be on alert to their safety and take preventive measures, and should contact Chinese embassies if necessary.

Echoing Chen, Yu Jiannan, spokesperson for China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said that according to information from Chinese consulates, the rate of crime, including theft, has increased recently in the US, so Chinese nationals should be cautious when traveling to the US and take preventive measures and be alert to their surroundings. 

Chen said the travel warning was issued as Chinese consulates across the US have received a lot of complaints from Chinese nationals after they were harassed by American law enforcement departments. 

The travel warning is also out of concern over the safety of Chinese nationals, Yu said, noting that the US, despite its position as a major travel destination for Chinese tourists, often experiences incidents of violent crimes which could threaten the safety of Chinese nationals in the North American country.

Twelve people died during the recent tragedy in Virginia Beach on May 31 US time. 

The number of Chinese tourists to the US fell 5.7 percent in 2018 to 2.9 million. It was the first time since 2003 that the number of Chinese travelers to the US slipped from the previous year, the Associated Press reported in May.

Yu said that roughly 150 million trips were made abroad in 2018. Tourists choose destinations based on their own will and on the situation of the destination. "Undoubtedly, the most important factor people consider is safety. Chinese tourists will surely make wise choices and cautiously evaluate their travel destinations," said Yu.

Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce's International Market Research Institute, told the Global Times  that the number of Chinese tourists to the US far outnumbered those traveling from the US to China, and the US tourism industry is heavily dependent on the rapidly increasing number of Chinese tourists, so a drop in the number of  travelers will exert a heavy blow on relevant US industries. 

It shows that the ongoing trade friction between the two countries has begun to hurt people-to-people exchanges in the two countries, Bai said.  

An employee from a Shanghai-based travel agency, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times that summer is the peak time for Chinese to travel to the US, but this year, more people have been consulting about safety and tightened visa policies in the US. Also, the number of tourists applying for US visas via their platform had also dropped drastically during this period of time. 

Strong measures

The travel alert is among the raft of strong warnings and countermeasures China has issued to fight back against the US clampdown on China. 

It comes one day after China's Ministry of Education issued an alert over studying in the US. It called on students and academics to "enhance their risk assessment" after an increase in visa delays and denials for those who have applied to study in the US.

When asked what signal the series of warnings is sending, Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a routine briefing on Tuesday that it was forced by circumstances. 

"China wouldn't do it if it were not necessary," Geng said.

Issuing the warning is what a responsible government should do under such circumstances, Geng stressed.

China is still positive in its attitude toward normal people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, but these exchanges should be based on mutual respect, Geng said.

Most Chinese people go to the US for study or leisure, and they had brought the US resources and benefits. The US setting obstacles for them shows the country's ignorance and is destroying its reputation as a country that welcomes openness, Wang Yiwei, a professor at the Renmin University of China's School of International Relations, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Judging from recent US actions, it aims to cut off as many possible connections with China as it can, which leaves China with no choice but to fight back with countermeasures to protect its national security, companies and citizens, Wang said.

For about a year and a half, China has conducted 11 rounds of high-level trade talks with the US, based on the principle of mutual trust and reciprocity, hoping to achieve positive results. However, the US has been flip-flopping all along by raising tariffs.

China's approach has always been principled and it has been forced to fight back. 

"But we made our attitude clear at the very beginning that we are not afraid to fight. We will fight with every card we have if necessary," Bai said.

The warnings from China's cultural and education authorities came days after the Ministry of Commerce announced it would draft an entity list to counter US companies' restrictive measures on either their Chinese partners or competitors that are made out of non-commercial purposes. 

The countermeasures do not mean that China will become a stingy country as the US has. On the contrary, China will continue its policy of opening-up. "While the door in the US is closed, our door remains open," said Wang.