The dire manners and “uncivilised behaviour” of some Chinese tourists abroad are harming the country’s image, said a top official who lamented their poor “quality and breeding”, according to state-run media.
Wang Yang, one of China’s four vice premiers, singled out for condemnation “talking loudly in public places, jay-walking, spitting and willfully carving characters on items in scenic zones”.
Such “uncivilised behaviours” were “often criticised by the media and have damaged the image of Chinese people and caused vicious impact”, he said, according to the website of the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece.
At a government meeting on Thursday on a new tourism law Wang said: “The quality and breeding of some tourists are not high yet.”
Chinese consumers have become increasingly affluent on the back of its economic boom and foreign holidays are ever more popular, with shopping often a key activity.
Destination countries, including debt-laden European states, have been easing visa restrictions to attract more tourists from China, but reports have also emerged of complaints about etiquette.
A mainland Chinese mother who asked her son to relieve himself in a bottle in a crowded Hong Kong restaurant sparked an outpouring of online anger in February.
“Improving the civilised quality of the citizens and building a good image of Chinese tourists are the obligations of governments at all levels and relevant agencies and companies,” said Wang, a former party chief of Guangdong province.
Authorities should “guide tourists to conscientiously abide by public order and social ethics, respect local religious beliefs and customs, mind their speech and behaviour ... and protect the environment,” he said.
Under the new Chinese law, travel agencies will be allowed to revoke their contracts with tourists who “engage in activities that violate social ethics”, although it does not specify examples.
Sara Jane Ho, principal of Institute Sarita in Beijing, China’s first high-end finishing school, said that rude behaviour stemmed from “a lack of international exposure and therefore lack of exposure to international etiquette”.
“Most Chinese do not behave this way on purpose,” she said. “My students, who are mostly young mothers, explain that you cannot blame us for not knowing how to behave because our parents never taught us.
“They grew up in a generation of basic survival; you don’t have the luxury to think about manners and personal space when trying to fight to the front of the food ration line.”
She added that “each generation of Chinese is getting better and better with education and travel”.
Earlier this year authorities in the wealthy eastern province of Jiangsu urged travellers to “take less cash, never show off money or valuables” after 23 Chinese visitors were robbed in Paris.