My friend Gary Leff penned a thoughtful piece explaining why he will not return to Mainland China, even after pandemic-related travel restrictions are lifted. My viewpoint differs from his.
Why I Will Continue To Visit China After The Pandemic
One source of concern for Gary is that China has warned it may detain American travelers in acts of “hostage diplomacy” in retaliation for the United Sates prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars.
That’s a concern. Not going to lie. There’s a number of other concerns as well:
- Persecution of Uighurs – the stories of those who escape from concentration camps are harrowing
- Persecution of Christians – churches are oppressively-regulated and underground churches are raided and disrupted.
- Stifling of civil liberties – punishing dissent and suppressing a free press is a violation of a universal human right
- Violation of Sino-British Joint Declaration – the treaty between China and the UK over Hong Kong has been ignored as China is now exercising an iron grip over the special administrative region
- War Games over Taiwan – the question of invading Taiwan is not if, but when
The list goes on.
I realize that every description above exposes a narrative bias. Chinese defenders would attempt to explain each situation differently.
As for me, I recognize the Chinese system for what it is: antithetical to my own values of individual liberty, but not without scrupulous logic and based upon a carefully-planned push for hegemony.
It is what it is. We are not going to stop it.
I’ve criticized China before on this blog. In fact, I’ve done so above. I stand by those words until someone is able to convince me I am wrong. It’s not an emotional position; I’ll support those opposed to my own values as a lesser of two evils (e.g. Bashar al-Assad in Syria versus a power-vacuum).
Does that make me persona non grata or fearful of visiting China? I sure hope not.
Five years ago I got a sense for “Big Brother” when Ben from One Mile at a Time and I were traveling through Shanghai. We had criticized China Eastern, a state-run carrier, for a dreadful flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai in which the flight crew smoked throughout the flight.
We stayed overnight at the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai and when we showed up at the airport the next day, we were met by officials in the passport control line. It wasn’t just Ben’s notoriety: they came up to me first and called me by name.
I have no doubt that my phones and laptop are carefully scanned when using hotel wi-fi. It’s not defensible, but it is what China does.
Ultimately, our own risk tolerances inform our actions. I have visited 135 countries and have made it a point to visit some of the dangerous ones. I want to see the world and I believe that engagement moves us toward freedom and liberty.
In 2013, I visited Cuba. Yes, you could ague that I was supporting the Castro regime. But I also witnessed a lot: far from the bastion of healthcare and education for all, I saw poverty and desperation. A man begged me for convertible pesos so that he could buy milk for his children. Another begged me to take him with me back to the USA. I told him to fight the good fight there.
I don’t flatter myself into believing that I can change hearts and minds on a large scale, but personal interactions matter. I’ve done business in China for a decade and beyond all the cliches and cultural barriers, it’s just people looking to make a living as I am.
China is rising. China is the future. And we can either keep our distance and hope the tiger will tame itself, or we can continue to engage, engage, engage in hopes that through increased interdependence, we need not be enemies. And ideally, more will call their government to account for suppressing not “American” rights, but universal human rights.
I look forward to returning to China after the pandemic. I hear that life is pretty nice there right now, with virtually no restrictions on daily life. But even as there is a nascent underbelly of suppression that builds upon decades of totalitarianism, my calling as a human is to engage with the world and the people of it. I can’t wait to return.
Will you return to China after the pandemic?
You couldn’t pay me enough to go there. I’ve been many times to China over 30 years and have found many Chinese people to be very charming, but I’m drawing the line now based on what’s happened. I might still go to Hong Kong when it opens up but we’ll see.
Would you go if they’re doing a butt swab 6 inches deep? I mean to me a butt tingle an incentive but not everyone is into that
I’m not into anal action, but a butt swab would not keep me from going back.
In the meantime, do you feel safe visiting (or even just transiting through) China or Hong Kong as you comment publicly on Sino affairs? Would you censor your comments prior to a trip?
I love China and can’t wait to go back. Their government doesn’t care about me and I have a valid tourist visa.
I’m also excited for the Wumaos to come tell you all of the points you made above are wrong because America isn’t above reproach either… or something like that.
This is the right assessment. I’m Chinese-American and I hate what the government is doing to the people. But most of Chinese society is surprisingly fair, mostly equitable and prosperous. I’m dying to get back there.
China doesn’t care if you come or not. And if you don’t visit, it still doesn’t change a thing.
For avoidance of doubt my reason for avoiding China travel is not a ‘refusal to visit a bad regime’ it is personal safety. I have been outspoken about the current Chinese regime, about Hong Kong, about Taiwan. And China has expressly said they they may detain Americans in retaliation for the U.S. prosecuting Chinese scholars. I don’t want to be one of the people they hold.
I simply suggest everyone consider their own relative risks. For many the circumstances will be different than mine. My website regularly attracts the attention of commenters operating on the behalf of the Chinese government when the topic of China comes up.
That’s fair and I did not mean to imply otherwise. I’ve also been invaded by comments from the people’s red cyber army on LALF over the years. Indeed, it comes down to our risk tolerance. You also order groceries in while I have continued to go to the grocery store at least once a week. I also got COVID-19…
With the US state department website. It don’t look to be the safest country to visit.
It get the same rating as Mexico and the Sudan for safety. Vietnam rates better.
@Andrew Y I think you’re spot on. The majority of Chinese people are like what Matthew said, simply people looking to make a living and trying to improve their lot. Too many people conflate Chinese people (or for that matter any Asian American) with the CCP, which led to intolerance and acts of violence against them even in this land of the free. There is no better way to improve their political lot by continuing to engage the Chinese and everyone else.
While I consider myself to be generally ‘pro’ China, at least in a cultural sense, I won’t be going back any time soon. Indeed the Australian attitude to China has declined greater than anywhere else: from 70% having a generally favourable attitude just 18 months ago, to only 20% in recent opinion polls. While part of this decline is attributable to the bullying trade sanctions imposed by Beijing, it is in no small measure to the detention of Australians working in China ( in business, media, education), for no reason other than tit-for-tat ( as has been seen in Canada and elsewhere). Admittedly the risk to an ordinary tourist is infinitesimally small.
I will be spending much more time in Taiwan, building upon 50+ previous visits…. it’s a wonderful country and has by far the best collection of Chinese art/craft/ antiquities ( in the National Palace Museum).
I would go back, but be much more careful while I’m there than before. I’m thinking one extended trip to see everywhere I’m interested in all at once before my 10-year Visa expires. And it would have to be after the anal swabs stop, I don’t want to encourage that ridiculousness from my pov.
I’m willing to go back to Hong Kong, too, with family once quarantine restrictions lift. We’ll be more careful there as well…
I have little interest in going back to China. I visited after three weeks in Japan and found Shanghai incredibly unpleasant compared to almost everywhere I’d been in Japan. I also don’t want to reward the country responsible for the worst global disruption since WWII. I will happily spend my tourist dollars in Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan without going to China where I can barely use a credit card.
I’ve been trashing China and the US on a regular basis, and while the only consequence for trashing the US might be angry tweets and downvotes on reddit, China is a different story. I’d like to keep my bunghole nice and tight, thank you very much. Would love to go back to HK though.
I will not be returning, and as long as HK is under siege, I will not be returning there either.
Taiwan only now. Which is a shame, China is a good place to visit. Or was. Oh well.
Any American contemplating travel to China should ask themselves if they, any of their associates, or any of their relatives work in sensitive industries or government, and are likely to be part of the many millions of records allegedly exfiltrated by Chinese government agents. For instance, the 2015 Office of Personnel Management data theft, and any number of credit, medical, travel, social media, and other records, which can of course all be collated and used by the CCP to target and coerce.
(also posted at VFTW)
I’m torn between going back and never again. I absolutely love Hong Kong but I don’ like what Beijing has done in Hong Kong. I hope when things calm down Hong Kong will once again resemble the Hong Kong I’ve come to love. I’ve also been to mainland China several times I don’t know if I will ever go back, I’m going to be honest I need to do some soul searching to figure out why this pandemic has change my views towards mainland China. I’m upset with China and I need to figure out why and how to get over it and move on.
I have in recent years been to China, Russia, Vietnam, Kenya, India, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Cuba, Texas, etc… I have begun considering the ethics of visiting some of these places. It is impossible to visit without at least some money going to the government through taxes and visa fees, but not going penalizes the family owned hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers etc…
But we must draw the line somewhere. And the one million people in concentration camps, the mass torture, rape and slave labor, the destruction of an entire ethnic group is all a line that I cannot cross.
If you pay me to go there, I won’t.
I had zero desire to visit Mainland China before the pandemic. I have the same level of desire after.
I don’t think its as tight as you think it is
(Sorry, couldn’t help myself 🙂
Unfortunately, what happens in China is happening here. Free speech is targeted by large institutions and many representatives in government. Religious freedom is as well. Conservatives are routinely disenfranchised from academia/govt. jobs/corporate America. It is now a crime to be white, to be proud to be white, to complain about white genocide induced through open border policies that lead to demographic replacement and change, to have traditional family values, to not trust government/media/academia, and to support individual freedom over government fiat.
Still, China has no place in my travel schedule. The ccp is second to Israel as countries that buy western politicians. China is correct that many of their citizens are being abused through bogus charges and ridiculous extradition treaties. It’s unfortunate it is this way but it is. Hong Kong is now a no go. It’s just not worth the risk. Let them keep their pollution and crumbling wall. Japan and Korea are better options.
As someone of Chinese heritage, I can assure you that I will never visit China (never yet been), nor sadly never return to rapidly autocratic Hong Kong. I know that I will not be missed, nor will my tourist dollars. Instead, Taiwan, Singapore and the semi-Chinese of Penang beckon more brightly now.
But there’s a line to be drawn in the sand and China went way past it with its behavior towards its own people, its neighbors and the environment. It’s not that America is so much better but I believe in human rights and there is very real danger of being arbitrarily arrested and locked up in China without legal recourse. Get out of Tibet, teach history accurately, get rid of the CCP and I will happily reconsider. In the meantime, it’s your ass (swabs and all).
Given the the very real possibility that China is going to detain random or targeted Americans not for any real violation of the law but rather as a part of playing diplomatic games I will not be visiting China. It’s one thing to visit a nation ruled by an autocratic regime (like Cuba for example) but where was long as you follow the laws there your in no danger of being arrested. It’s quite another in my view to visit one that has openly declared they may detain random innocents as a part of hostage diplomacy. That’s just my view and it implies no criticism of those whose own personal risk tolerance is greater.
Matthew should take a stand and recognize the Republic of China as the sole and legitimate government of China and the one based in Taipei. He should refer to the mainland as either “Communist controlled sections of China”, “illegal bandit government of China”, “mainland China”, or “People’s Republic of China” but never “China”.
Oh no, I am now on a sht list of the People’s Republic of China.
Like some of the comments above, there are certain countries that I will not visit. Those include:
People’s Republic of China
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Islamic Republic of Iran
I consider risk to my safety in China low but will completely avoid visiting or transiting for the foreseeable future. There are far better destinations to spend leisure travel dollars mentioned in comments above.
Good luck getting your butt swabbed!
(UK Telegraph – PVG Chaos)