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SUMMARY OF COMING OF AGE OF THE CHINESE TOURISTS.docx

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Department
Anthropology
Course
ANTH 3120
Professor
Karl Schmid
Semester
Fall

Description
COMING OFAGE OF THE CHINESE TOURISTS With the acceleration of economic reform and development, Chinese people’s freedom to move has simultaneously expanded. There are mainly two factors leading to this shift. First, China’s GDP and individual incomes have increased considerably during the last two decades. Rising disposable incomes have triggered higher travel and leisure expenditure. Many countries started allowing Chinese visitors to come to their country like the Philippines, Australia, and starting in 2004, even Europe (france, Italy, Germany). John Urry’s (2002) ‘tourist gaze’is one of the most powerful analytical concepts in tourism literature. By making reference to Foucault’s medical gaze, Urry points out that the tourist gaze is something socially organized and systematized by tourism and tourism-related institutions, including tourist agencies, TV travel programs, travel books, advertisement, images that satisfy the quest of tourists for something extraordinary. Tourists are people who undergo a rite of passage of ‘going away’ (from their mundane everyday life) to somewhere else to collect such (mainly visual) signs which often fulfil the tourists’anticipation of places, objects, people and travel itself. Urry is also concerned with the historical transformation of social reproduction of the tourist gaze, from the high-brow travel culture of the elite class of Europe to the present working-class mass tourism. Based upon Urry’s gaze theory, this article analyses the gaze of the Chinese tourists. But instead of looking into how tourism industry structures such gaze, it illustrates the ‘modernity urge’of the Chinese gaze intersecting with MacCannell’s thesis of the quest for authenticity. So in addition to the tourist gaze, I will also address the gaze of the host. In Vietnam, probably in many other tourism destinations as well, the hosts are constantly casting gazes on the tourists. In this article, I purposely position the host gaze together with the tourist gaze in order to stress that the hosts’collective power of ‘gazing’(at the tourists) and manipulating such a gaze is as important as that of the tourist gaze once the tourists reach a tourist destination, it is not only the local people who are on display, the tourists also immediately constitute part of the visual reality of the local landscape THE HOST GAZE The general comments I got from tourism workers in Vietnam about Chinese tourists mostly paraded negative stereotypes. Such comments included: Chinese tourists are rude and impolite; they speak too loud; they complain too much; they do not care for others. One of the workers said Chinese people bargain too much. AUTHENTICITY REVISITED AND THE TOURIST GAZE In this section I revisit the tourist gaze in conjunction with MacCannell’s staged authenticity.Tourists for MacCannell are those who feel alienated by the routine life of highly industrialized/modernized societies and those who have a persist- ent quest for authenticity elsewhere. MacCannell (1973, 1976) asserts that ‘staged authenticity’is the only possible authenticity for tourists’consumption Indeed, while Urry’s tourist gaze is consciously and subconsciously organized by postcards, guide books, promotional materials of tourist agencies, TV travel programmes and so on, MacCannell’s tourists are programmed with a desire to gaze deeper, what MacCannell (2001) terms ‘the second gaze’. To him, many tourists are actually aware of the contrived reality during sightseeing trips. Underneath such awareness, there still lies an urge for probing deeper into the ‘backstage’. For MacCannell (1999: 3), the essence of modernity
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