Admonitions not enough to influence China

A number of Chinese tourists visiting the Ginza district of Tokyo in this photo taken on Feb. 21
PHOTO: Japan News/ANN

An airline passenger is angered by poor cabin service and dumps hot instant ramen on a flight attendant. Annoyed by a delayed departure, a passenger opens an airplane's emergency escape door just before takeoff.

From the end of last year through the first half of this year, information on four Chinese travelers who engaged in such aberrant behavior has been recorded for the first time on a "blacklist," the Chinese government has revealed.

Last year, the number of international travelers departing China exceeded 100 million for the first time. At the same time, unacceptable violations of etiquette have been rampant, notably harming both public safety and the image of China. Driven to a sense of crisis, the Chinese government this year announced the creation of the blacklist. The government provides banks and airlines with information on the listed individuals, who may become unable to acquire airline tickets or the income verification statements needed to obtain a visa.

The response by the travel industry in China has been surprisingly agreeable.

A Chinese guide who has accompanied group tours from China to Japan four times this year said: "Even when cautioned, ill-mannered customers adopt an attitude of 'That's not fair; other travelers are doing it too.' There's a need for punishments."

Even more than general tourists, Communist Party and government leaders in China, who should be setting a good example, cause trouble and claim they are "unfairly" singled out, in an attempt to justify selfish behavior.

On the subject of China's reclamation of rock reefs and the construction of an airfield and other facilities on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth highest-ranking leader of the Communist Party of China and the Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, complained to Takeshi Noda, Japan's former home affairs minister, during an official visit: "Isn't it lacking fairness to say nothing when the Philippines earlier built facilities, and only talk strongly against China?"

Going even as high up as Foreign Minister Wang Yi, China claims to be the "greatest victim" of incursions by other countries in the South China Sea.

To be certain, the countries and regions involved in territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands have fought for many years over the establishment of bases, of which Vietnam holds 48, the Philippines eight, Malaysia five, and Taiwan one. However, unlike China, none of these countries asserts sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea region or has declared the possibility of setting an Air Defense Identification Zone that would restrict flights by other nations' aircraft.

At the root of China's self-regarding victim mentality is a distrust of the existing order. "China became a major power late in the game. Following the order led by the United States and Europe puts the country at a disadvantage," explained a Chinese scholar close to the Xi Jinping administration.

In the economic and financial world, there are emerging signs of challenges to this Western leadership, as seen in the establishment of new banks with China as the largest investing nation. The conversion of South China Sea islands into military bases can be nothing other than the laying of a foundation for a security order that, with the removal of US influence, is advantageous to China.

Even if the misbehavior of most tourists can be fixed with an admonition, China's attempt to change the status quo has reached a level that threatens the stability of the region and of the world. A strengthening of deterrence is essential.

The United States has declared that it is considering the dispatch of warships and aircraft to the areas surrounding China's artificial islands, and is moving toward defensive cooperation with a nation it once fought, Vietnam. Japan, for its part, sits right next to China. For its own safety, too, Japan must strengthen its involvement in the South China Sea.