WASHINGTON — The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Washington issued a starkly-worded travel advisory this week for summer tourists traveling to the United States, explaining in so many words that traveling to the country could be hazardous to one’s health unless one takes proper precautions.
The advisory reads in large part like a virtual laundry list of U.S. social problems, naming the exorbitant cost of healthcare, frequent crime, and gun violence as potential threats to traveler safety:
The state of law and order in the U.S. is not good, and incidents of shootings, robberies and theft are frequent … be aware of suspicious persons around you and avoid going out alone at night. If you are in danger, please calmly respond and call 911 to call the police (you can get Chinese service by insisting on Chinese).”
The United States suffers a rate of gun violence far greater than any other developed nation, with nearly six times as many firearm-committed homicides as neighboring Canada and nearly 16 times as many as Germany. While the U.S. populace amounts to less than five percent of the global population, its people possess nearly half of all civilian-owned weaponry worldwide. Additionally, gun-related mass murders happen with extreme frequency in the United States – over 1,600 mass shootings occurring since the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. Meanwhile, in China, gun ownership is strictly controlled by authorities, who are wary about the possibility of mass shootings or terrorist incidents.
The embassy also warned travelers to pay close attention to weather forecasts and news related to climatic events, and to be prepared for any potential and sudden natural disaster. The U.S. suffered a devastating chain of weather disasters last summer, including multiple hurricanes and fire storms, with the year’s total cost in damage exceeding any previous year.
The tip-sheet further urges Chinese citizens to remain calm when dealing with law enforcement officers, urging that one should avoid confrontations with officers lest the situation deteriorate – a universally useful tip for travel to any country.
The U.S. witnessed a 4 percent drop in foreign tourist visits last year, dipping from nearly 76 million to under 73 million foreign visitors. The decline has been called the “Trump Slump” by observers, who credit the outrage sparked by Trump administration policies like the discriminatory anti-Muslim travel ban as partly to blame.
Yet while the United States certainly has its share of edgy, anxious police officers, crimes related to social problems, and extreme weather events rooted in global climate shifts, the advisory could be just as much related to politics and trade disputes as it is to legitimate fears for the safety of Chinese travelers to the country.
The list of hazards is not dissimilar to the controversial travel warnings issued to U.S. citizens by the State Department, which are often met by accusations that Washington is exaggerating dangers to serve its political ends.
Yet when asked whether Beijing was issuing the alert for political purposes, China’s Foreign Ministry denied any connection to other matters and stressed that it was fulfilling its obligation to its own citizens.
“This kind of reminder from the Chinese embassy in the relevant country, I think this is absolutely a matter that is in the scope of our duty,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters.
The advisory was released as President Donald Trump threatened to impose a series of broad-ranging tariffs on up to $450 billion in Chinese products destined for U.S. shores, in addition to $34 billion in duties that will soon be rolled out as a response to allegedly unfair trade practices by Beijing.
In April, China published a report detailing human-rights offenses committed by the U.S. government, blasting the self-designated “human rights judge” and “guardian of human rights” for its own neglect of U.S. residents’ human, civil, and social rights. The United States has long lambasted Beijing with its view that China’s citizens are mistreated by the country’s authorities.
The report laid out the extreme and growing inequality between rich and poor, undemocratic practices of the political system, institutional racism, and violations of the rights of marginalized groups such as disabled people, women, and children in the U.S. as proof of the country’s corroding social landscape.
Responding to frequent U.S. reports on the abuse of foreign nationals’ rights by their own governments, the report noted:
[Washington] continued to point fingers and cast groundless blame on the domestic affairs and human rights situation of other countries as if it had the most perfect human rights condition in the world. However, looking back on the year of 2017, even those with the slightest sense of righteousness will find that the human rights record of the United States itself remained tarnished and showed a continued deterioration tendency.”
Read | China’s report: Human Rights Record of the United States
Top Photo | Tourists from China take in the sights of the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall National Memorial, in New York. Chinese tourists are among the fastest-growing and highest-spending groups of international visitors to the United States. Mary Altaffer | AP
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.
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