By Wang Wen Source: Global Times Published: 2019-11-5
During my Cairo visit, I suggested to a few Egyptian diplomats that their country should allow visa-free entry for Chinese passport holders so they could visit and help promote Egypt's economic development. I was surprised to hear the reasons why this would be difficult. Apparently, there aren't enough hotels, only a few shopping malls, an underdeveloped payment system, and a shortage of Chinese tour guides. If there are too many Chinese traveling in Egypt, the country could not handle it, they explained.
China and Egypt have always enjoyed friendly relations. Egypt is a popular tourist destination, but its government has not fully opened its arms to Chinese visitors. At least 150 million Chinese citizens traveled to international destinations in 2018, with roughly 500,000 visiting Egypt. Data showed Chinese tourists on average spent $5,565 on overseas travel in 2017, while average expenditures per US visitor overseas were $1,476.
By contrast, some countries with tourism facilities who were not as ebullient toward Chinese visitors in the past have since changed. More than 60 countries, including Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, offer Chinese tourists visas on arrival or have dropped their visa requirements.
In 2017, the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow began offering signs in three languages, Russian, English, and Chinese. The number of Chinese visiting Russia has increased every year and could reach 2 million for 2019.
In Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, the Bole International Airport offers signs in Chinese and businesses accept WeChat payment. The changes have helped the country attract more Chinese tourists and investment.
I can understand the hesitation of Egypt's government. It is a general reaction of many countries toward the growing number of incoming Chinese tourists. These countries desire good relations with China, draw on China's experience, while attracting greater Chinese spending, trade, and investment. But they lack adequate infrastructure and technology, some have worried they cannot cope with China, while others don't want to become too dependent on it, or they're afraid of the country's emergence.
There are Chinese reasons behind such concerns. Group tour preferences, an obsession with shopping, and some Chinese tourists are too loud for some places. Besides, Chinese tourists cannot be said to have the best manners. Chinese investment is not always perfect as some of it have led to excessive creditor's rights or could place local environments at risk, while others need to make construction quality improvements.
China is the most peaceful rising power in history. In the 16th century, Portugal, Spain, and Holland set off the Age of Discovery, exploring the world while bringing about early colonization. In the 18th century, the capital era began with Britain, France, and Germany as the main forces, which started the Industrial Revolution while creating the slave trade and the wars between powers. In the 20th century, WWI and WWII took the world to the worst condition in human civilization history. And then the Cold War arrived. In contrast, the rise of China has had the fewest disadvantages for globalization. I feel that China is not fully prepared to become a global power. Its globalization policy and talent reserves are far behind compared with Chinese international tourists and investors.
The world is faced with the challenge of how to accept a rising China. Many countries are slowly adjusting, but many are hesitating. Unfortunately, some countries have hindered and have been unwilling to accept the fact China is more open to the world.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the theory "End of History." Francis Fukuyama, the theory's founder, has reconsidered that history has not yet ended and real-world history has only started. The Chinese are undoubtedly the pioneers, explorers, and innovators of this new world history.
Cognitive differences, ideological biases, and divergent interests are not insurmountable obstacles in the face of global changes. The key is to maintain a positive and inclusive attitude toward global changes with China as the main impetus.
Embracing, influencing, and benefiting from China may not be easy, but it is the most cost-effective choice for the world.
The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, at Renmin University of China and executive director of China-US People-to-People Exchange Research Center. His new book Great Power's Long March Road was launched recently.
Essam Sharaf gave a speech at the Global Think Tanks Online Forum held in Beijing on June 10. Over 100 think tank experts and media representatives from 48 countries and nine international organizations attended the forum. The following is the full text of his speech.