Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In September 2018, the forcible expulsion of three Chinese tourists from a Stockholm hotel, described by the hashtag “Chinese Tourists Abused by Swedish Police” was viewed more than 170 million times on social media network Weibo. While netizens’ responses were mixed, the case became a lightning rod for concerns that China and Chinese citizens are unfairly criticized and even discriminated against outside of China (waiguo) and can be likened to recent incidents that have prompted similar expressions of both national pride and consumer identities. Outrage over international airlines’ listing of Taiwan as a non-Chinese territory and criticism that fashion retailer Zara’s use of a freckle-faced model constituted discrimination against Chinese ideals of beauty both show that experiences of unfairness or attacks on national pride may be translated into the commercial sphere – the incident in Stockholm, after all, resulted in numerous calls to boycott Swedish companies like IKEA and H&M. While a handful of incidents such as these have garnered enormous attention online, every year more than 100 million Chinese travel to international destinations where they may come face-to-face with negative impressions of Chineseness, whether criticisms of the nation’s ethnic policies or stereotypes about Chinese people. This paper, based on exploratory research on Chinese tourism in Denmark and Sweden, examines tourists’ experiences of both outright discrimination and attitudes they perceive as discriminatory to the Chinese nation, investigating the framing of their responses in terms of both national identity and a heightened consumer consciousness, where purchasing power commands esteem.