|With a population of 1.4 billion people and a rapidly growing economy, the presence of Chinese tourists outside of mainland China is becoming troublesome to many. Back in the old days, there was a moniker "CT" in Thailand that stood for Communist Terrorist though it was in fact a euphemism for Chinese Terrorist. The Communist Party of Thailand and resistance army was formed in Beijing in 1964 and flew the flag of China. Shown below are some of the followers with the images of famous communist leaders in the background.
The author recalls an incident in 1969 in Bangkok during a briefing of stateside headquarters board members. A Thai was making use of some of the first overhead projected slides in Thailand to overlay various red colored areas of Thailand to indicate "CT" guerrilla fighting incidents. Soon the entire country was colored red creating the appearance that it had gone communist thereby shutting the door on any foreign investment. The general manager, whose face assumed the same color, stood and crumbled the slide in his massive hands and told the hapless guy to sit down. Actually, my old buddy, Colonel Chang of the Thai Communist Suppression Organization, might have been more forceful. I was very careful as I followed the presenter with my slides to put a positive spin on the Thai economy which had already begun to boom given the impact of the Vietnam war.
Fast forward to today's time and "CT" stands for Chinese tourists. Everywhere we go, there are legions of Chinese tourists. A recent Bloomberg article said Chinese Tourists Could Cause Years of Misery for Thai Airports. Some nine million clueless Chinese tourists last year represented 25% of all tourists to Thailand and are rapidly growing in number. Moreover, as we will discuss in a bit, they are beginning to move upscale in their consumption and recreational habits. Today, you can discern their presence as they move in vast hordes, are transported in large tour buses, follow flags and ignore everyone else around them. Here the "CTs" are approaching the Thai Royal Palace in a much different manner than their "CT" namesake predecessors may have dreamed fifty years ago.
As Thailand has a population of 68 million, it is a bit easier to accommodate the "CTs" visiting Thailand than the 1.2 million that descended upon Cambodia last year with a population of 15 million. Further, as most visited Angkor Wat, they likely matched the population there of one million.
Obviously, as the riches of the roaring Chinese economy begin to vest and create a wealthy class, tourism will evolve. Forbes recently published an article that the fortunes of China's 400 richest billionaires surged to $1.2 trillion which is serous money. Moreover, some of the wealth at the top is beginning to trickle down the ranks.
The Financial Times reported that "Lunar holiday liquor shortages bring Chinese drinks group down to earth." The world's most valuable drinks group, China's Kweichow Moutai had received a warning from Beijing to address the shortage of the premium varieties of the fiery drink baijiu causing prices to spiral. If you were ever compelled to drink this awful beverage, you would be amazed that there was a shortage. The government is concerned that high-end baijiu prices have been increasing such that it is becoming a drink of the elite and not of the masses. However, if you see a bottle of that shown below at a Chinese banquet, feign a severe allergy to alcohol.
The elitist culinary requirements of China continue to evolve to include the famous Japanese wagyu beef. The Nikkei Asian Review recently published an article entitled Is Cambodia a "Japanese beef-laundering" Hub? Smugglers are by-passing Chinese import bans to satisfy the affluent Chinese hunger for the prized beef.
The common belief is Cambodia has become a staging point to smuggle the banned beef into China. Japanese Finance Ministry statistics show that exports of frozen beef to Cambodia were up 50% last year reaching 544 tons maintaining the position of Cambodia as the top importer. As some of the 7 million Chinese visitors to Japan last year likely tasted wagyu beef, they wanted it to go along with their awful baijiu liquor. Moreover, stories of Japanese cows being fattened on beer and receiving massages heightened the appeal. On the other hand, it is very difficult to find wagyu beef in Cambodia as it costs some 40 times local beef. Moreover, as shown below, Japanese beef is not offered in the Japanese owned shopping center in Phnom Penh. Therefore, the evidence is compelling that the wagyu beef has found a covert route to China.
There are a couple of points in this message: (1) Even if you are a vegetarian at a Chinese banquet and face a choice of wagyu beef with baijiu liquor, go for the beef and decline the liquor as even Buddha would understand, and (2) Do not put off the romantic getaway to a remote island as very soon there will be lots of Chinese to join you there.