A young Chinese couple turned an AirAsia economy flight cabin into a battlefield after they were infuriated by an air stewardess’s demand for payment of $14 for a cup of hot water. Soon after takeoff from Bangkok to Nanjing, China, a Chinese woman ordered hot water from a stewardess. Told that no drink could be served during takeoff, she splashed the hot water later brought to her onto the stewardess, while her hysterical partner screeched threats to blow up the plane. As the scared and bewildered stewardess withdrew in tears, the woman screamed that she planned to break the window and jump out. The plane was forced to turn back to Bangkok; the couple was fined about $10,000, with a night’s delay before the plane took off again. Upon their return to the motherland the couple was then accused of “undermining the general image of the Chinese people.” The man was told he would be blacklisted and banned from flying by the Chinese authorities. The guide of the tourist group they had joined had his tourist license suspended for 12 months. The couple was then subjected to ridicule online from their own countrymen, in the harshest words possible. The man and the woman never “undermined” the Chinese image. This kind of behavior happens everywhere every day. It caused more alarm because this time it took place in a limited claustrophobic space, with passengers, immobilized by their safety belts, in a great position to turn on their Apple devices and record the pandemonium. Had there been a Japanese or a Swiss couple doing that, one would have called it a most dramatic surprise, and it is arguable that the images of these countries might have been “undermined.” But as for a couple of economically militant and culturally aggressive Chinese creating a scene, the world has simply gotten used to it. The airline seemed little troubled, as long as the offenders paid the fine as willingly as they pay cash at any Louis Vuitton shop. And they did. Most surprising was the official Chinese reaction. The banning showed that Beijing was serious about preventing the Chinese image from sliding into a global laughingstock as a nuisance to mankind. But no one will be able to stop an excited Chinese traveler from shouting and yelling at the Champs Élysées or a shopping mall in Sydney Harbour, let alone one at the tables of Las Vegas. Twenty years ago they were running around in paddy fields in remote villages, barefoot and in rags. Now they are honored as big-spending VIPs on Canton Road or Fifth Avenue, with blonde floor managers bowing to them. If I were one of them, I’d be howling like Tarzan too. So unless each outward-bound Chinese tourist group is escorted by a plain-clothed Chinese gunman with a shoot-to-kill instruction, this kind of Chinese face-losing behavior is unlikely to change for at least a generation. Beijing can of course whitewash the bad image of Chinese a bit, if it is willing to. It will cost a tiny fraction of the violent effort that is applied to the crackdown of rebellious Muslims in Xinjiang. Just a little fraction. It’s a favor China has long owed the civilized world. Chip Tsao is a best-selling author, columnist and a former producer for the BBC. His columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.