China advised its citizens against US travel this week in the latest escalation of US-China tensions.
The Chinese government cited a rising risk of crime and harassment, stating that “shootings, robberies and thefts have occurred frequently in the United States.”
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs separately alleged that US law enforcement agencies have been routinely harassing Chinese tourists through border interrogations, spot checks, and “various other means”.
The warning is in place until the end of this year.
Though the US has a notoriously high gun crime rate – 38,658 people died from gun-related injuries in 2016 – this is not a new development. The travel warning is more likely a response to ongoing trade negotiations.
Prior to the government’s warning, tourism from China had already been falling, with 3 million tourists visiting the US in 2018 compared to 3.2 million in 2017. However, Chinese spending in the States rose from $35.3bn in 2017 to $36.4bn in 2018, with Chinese tourists the biggest spenders of all nationalities according to the World Tourism Organization.
A reduction in Chinese tourism and spending may spell trouble ahead for US luxury retailers and tourism companies. China slapped a similar warning on South Korea in 2017 in retaliation for the deployment of a US-backed missile system. South Korea’s economic growth shrank by 0.4% as a result.
Canada was also the subject of a travel warning by the Chinese Culture and Tourism Ministry in January of this year. Relations deteriorated following the detention of Huawei’s executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.