Vistors take photos on the Wuhua Meadow in Guyuan County of Zhangjiakou city, North China’s Hebei Province, July 29, 2012. Tourist volume in scenic zones of Wuhua Meadow soared as the summer vacation started. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on July 29, 2012 shows a scenery of Wuhua Meadow in Guyuan County of Zhangjiakou city, North China’s Hebei Province. Tourist volume in scenic zones of Wuhua Meadow soared as the summer vacation started. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on July 29, 2012 shows tourists on a highland wetland park in Zhangjiakou, North China’s Hebei Province. The Lightning River Wetland Park, the first one on highland in Hebei, is also the best preserved highland wetland closest to China’s capital Beijing. Photo: Xinhua
The legitimization of political discourse against Muslims is on the rise in the United States, while Beijing—an ostensibly socialist, secular government—builds mosques, in a paradoxical soft-power pitch to the Muslim world. Will Muslim business interests look East?
In little over a decade since 9/11, China built a mosque to welcome Muslim guests from countries like neighboring Kazakhstan, a major supplier of natural fuels, to Guangzhou for the 2010 Asian Games. Chinese state-owned construction companies finished a railway allowing Muslims to travel between pilgrimage sites in Mecca and Medina in the same year and broke ground in the construction of a monumental Grand Mosque of Algiers in 2012.
Hong Kong is pushing for legislation to establish “a wholesale Islamic capital market in promoting Islamic finance,” a move to draw more Muslim capital and business to China’s Special Administrative Region, according to its Financial Services and Treasury Bureau.
Meanwhile, in the post-9/11 United States, a Baptist church inaugurated a day to burn Islam’s holy book in 2010; Herman Cain, in a bid for the Republican Party presidential ticket, proclaimed he would not appoint Muslims to his administration and suggested Muslim Americans take a loyalty oath in 2011; and roughly two dozen state congresses are considering new legislation to block Islamic law from penetrating their legal systems, in what Muslim American leaders are calling a phantom menace and an act of fearmongering.
“If the treatment of American Muslims doesn’t change, that will jeopardize U.S. interests in the Muslim world. Muslims have options. They might go to China and India,” said Haris Tarin, head of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a Muslim American advocacy group.
What happens in the United States is splashed across the Arab presses, much as calls to terrorism are published widely in American media, said James Zogby, the founder of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a DC-based community-advocacy organization that conducts polling and policy research across the Middle East and North Africa.
“When we want Muslims to take a loyalty oath, it rings loudly around the Middle East like a bell,” Zogby said.
In a 2011 release of AAIpollingdata from Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all but Saudi Arabia had a more favorable opinion of China than of the United States. Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE had opinions of China five times higher, while Lebanon’s opinion of China was three times higher than that of the United States.
U.S. approval ratings declined between 2002 and 2004, except in the UAE, and declined again between 2008 and 2011 in all countries except Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. In each data set, approval ratings plummeted by as much as half.
Zogby feels public perceptions are likely to affect business decisions.
“The cumulative effect of (Islamophobic) incidents does take a toll. . . . Increasingly in our polling, we find that people still understand that the U.S. is the most powerful of the global economies. But when we ask Arabs about the future, the East is looming large,” Zogby said, “They see South and East Asia as prime targets for future engagement. That will come at the expense of the United States.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration said it is confident about the U.S. trade relationship with the Middle East. “American-made products are viewed as high-quality and are much sought after by consumers in the region,” said Francisco Sanchez, undersecretary for international trade.
But China famously undercuts the competition, and that makes a difference in a region where non-oil economies struggling with postrevolutionary unemployment rates need cheap goods for daily use.
In 2010, China surpassed the United States as the top exporter to the Middle East region, after its exports to the region grew by nearly 90 percent from 2005–2009, according to figures from the IMF. MENA exports to China in the years just after 9/11 grew by an average 41.1 percent, whereas exports to the United States in the same period grew by 25 percent.
The trade gap has widened in recent years. China-Middle East trade volume beat out U.S.-Middle East trade volume in 2009 by $3 billion and in 2010 by $67 billion, according to figures released by Beijing and Washington respectively.
In 2011, U.S.-Middle East trade amounted to $153 billion, but according to the most recent release of figures by Beijing, Chinese-Middle East trade already amounted to $120 billion within just the first half of the last fiscal year.
In the post-9/11 world, China famously has beat out the United States as the region’s foremost purchaser of oil. More oil may mean more Chinese-built minarets on the horizon, analysts say.
“The more oil the Chinese buy from the Middle East, the stronger the interest Chinese officials are likely to show in developing and strengthening political ties to the Middle East,” said Blake Clayton, an energy fellow at Washington-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. “That attention will likely be reciprocated,” he said, “Middle Eastern leaders will stay more closely attuned to political and economic developments in China and elsewhere than they had been.”
BANGKOK, Thailand – The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) announced that PATA Travel Mart 2013 (PTM2013) and PATA Board Meeting will be hosted by the City of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, in September 2013, at its PATA’s Executive Board Meeting on July 28, at the Hotel ICON, in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Mr. Martin J. Craigs, PATA CEO, revealed this encouraging news over the weekend at a memorable meeting of the new Executive Board, the highest governance group within PATA. Mr. Mu Tao, Deputy Director of Chengdu Municipal Tourism Administration, together with other officials from the Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Exposition and the Chengdu Culture Tourism Development Group, gave briefings on Chengdu’s advantages in terms of geographical location and meeting facilities.
As the leading travel event in the Asia Pacific region, PATA Travel Mart brings together hundreds of international buyers and sellers in one marketplace and offers opportunities for travel industry stakeholders to build their business through pre-scheduling appointments, dynamic education programs, and social functions. Following Hong Kong, Hangzhou, and Macau, Chengdu is the fourth Chinese city to win the bid to host PATA Travel Mart, and will be the first city to host PTM in Midwest China.
Eng João Manuel Costa Antunes, PATA Chairman, said: “It is refreshing to see the increasing involvement of China in the organization of PATA key events. The successful bid of Chengdu to host PTM2013 is very meaningful, not only because it will be the first time for a main event of the association to travel to the midwest of China, but also because Sichuan will be able to show to Asia-Pacific travel industry stakeholders its rich tourism resources and the amazing reconstruction works done four years after the devastating earthquake.”
Mr. Martin J. Craigs, PATA CEO, said: “PATA has been working closely with Chengdu in many capacities over the past years including the development of tourism training, co-branding a seminar on global tourism trends and destination marketing. We are confident that Chengdu can attract a good quality and quantity of international visitors, as well as buyers to PATA Travel Mart 2013. This is another great reason to join the PATA next generation family and build your business.”
Mr. Mu Tao, Deputy Director of Chengdu Municipal Tourism Administration, said: “Hosting PATA Travel Mart will boost the Chengdu’s brand and image; it will also spur the continued growth of the business travel and exhibition economy. Chengdu is one of China’s most multi-faceted tourist cities with abundant and innovative MICE resources. In the urban area are Panda Base, Wuhou Temple, Du Fu Thatched Cottage, and Kuan Zhai Lanes are the most-visited attractions for international visitors. Mount Qingcheng, Xiling Snow Mountain, Tianfu town, and other scenic areas are within one hour’s drive. In collaboration with PATA, we are confident we will host a particularly fruitful and memorable PTM in the City of Chengdu.”
QUFU, China — “Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it” — Confucius.
Despite the passage of more than 2,000 years, wars and political upheavals, memories of China’s greatest sage are alive and well in this town of 650,000, south of Beijing in Shandong province.
For anyone interested in the history of Confucius and the reverence for a philosophy that all men should show respect for others — regardless of status — three historic sites here are well-worth visiting. They are the Temple of Confucius, the Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion of Qufu.
Walking near the main street (on a recent trip with colleagues), we turned from a road lined with cypress and pine trees, then stepped through the front gate of the 152-building temple, China’s second-largest ancient structural complex.
Situated on the other side of a tall stone wall that surrounds the town’s old quarter, it was the first of several decorative gates erected for visits by emperors and other officials who came to pay their respects, or to grant noble titles for descendants of the father of the country’s social code.
Modelled on the capital’s Imperial Palace, the 22-hectare temple grounds and buildings were expanded repeatedly after the main structure was begun in 478 B.C. Following two major fires, plus renovations, the present two-storey Dacheng Hall — or “Hall of Great Achievement” — was completed 282 years ago.
To reach it, visitors walk along paths lined with ancient trees, through nine courtyards containing smaller structures and pavilions. The “First Temple Under Heaven” grounds contain monuments plus stone “steles” inscribed with text dedicated to Confucian thought and memorials to high-ranking visitors.
Stories and legends vary, but he was believed to be born just north of here in 551 B.C. From his given name of Kongqiu and the adult literary name of Zhongni, two million registered descendants — after almost 80 generations — bore the last name Kong.
Considered ugly, with a large protruding forehead, the son of a minor feudal estate owner and soldier was three years old when his father died. As the story goes, his mother raised him after a lion and an eagle who cared for the abandoned boy in a cave on Mount Ni convinced her to take him back. As depicted in a colourful theatre pageant we attended, she performed menial labour to support them.
Educated on ancient rituals and music, Confucius reluctantly left home. Working as a shepherd, cow-tender, clerk and an accountant. He married at age 19 and his wife, Qi Guan, soon bore him a first son.
After serving as justice minister for a duke greatly admired for reforms in the strict feudal society often ravaged by political rivalries and wars, Confucius went into self-imposed exile when the official celebrated with gifts of horses and dancing girls provided by enemies from a neighbouring state.
Surrounded by disciples, the philosopher taught in other provinces that they should use humanity, have moral standards and be courteous, that all men should be educated and promoted based on skills and aptitude, and that children should be devoted to their parents and older siblings.
One of his most oft-quoted sayings, “what you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others,” reflects the Golden Rule of many societies.
Discouraged after officials rebuffed his teaching, Confucius established a school back in Qufu, then spent his last seven years teaching and collecting songs, documents plus ancient writings that reflected his beliefs.
Over the following century, disciples recorded more of his sayings into what are called Analects.
Duke Ai of the State of Lu ordered his home kept as a place of worship and sacrifices to Confucius, but opposition several centuries later resulted in paintings and statues of him being replaced by spirit tablets.
Today, only temples operated by descendants display his image and sayings, plus devotions to disciples credited with preserving his teachings as a humanist — not a religious standard. Not well-known when he died around 480 B.C., his philosophies spread and became the basis for courtliness and personal decorum for officials and bureaucrats.
The last major threat occurred in 1966, when about 200 students from a Beijing university raided the temple and cemetery grounds during the height of Cultural Revolution opposition to feudalism and capitalism. Before premier Zhou Enlai ordered soldiers to intervene, Red Guard marauders who did not see the beauty of Confucius philosophy smashed gravestones and hoisted the remains of the last duke descended from the philosopher from his grave into a tree.
Family members lived for centuries in the mansion, until the last ones fled during the Chinese Civil War in the 1940s. The last hereditary duke, a title granted to descendants by an emperor almost 1,000 years ago, died in 2008 in Taiwan.
The residence’s decor is retained, as are repaired steles on the temple grounds and gravestones in the 3.6-sq.-km Kong Lín — “Kong’s forest” — cemetery, where about 100,000 descendants are entombed about 2 km north of the mansion. All three locales became UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994.
NEED TO KNOW
Cathay Pacific has 10 non-stop Toronto to Hong Kong flights, and 14 flights weekly non-stop from Vancouver to Hong Kong. Dragon Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Group, operates daily non-stop flights between Hong Kong and Qingdao, China. Together, Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air fly to 20 destinations in China and more than 100 destinations worldwide.
I flew Toronto-Hong Kong in Business Class, which provides comfortable seats that convert to flat beds (some of the largest in the industry) with direct aisle access and privacy screens. The airline recently won the World’s Best Business Class category in the Skytrax World Airline Awards. I returned in Cathay’s Premium Economy class, with wide seats and footrests. Both have individual TV screens and special service.
Qufu is 150 km from China’s Jinan Yaoqiang Airport; 16 km from the railway station at Yanzhou, with three-hour trips from Beijing, two hours from Shanghai; about two hours by bus from Jinan, the provincial capital.
Admission to the the three sites ranges from 30-to-80 yuan ($5-$12) each. A guidebook or guide is recommended. English is limited. A ceremony is held each Sept. 28 at the Kong Mansion to mark the birthday of Confucius.
I stayed at the comfortable old-style 150-room Qufu Queli Hotel between the Temple and Mansion, near a street packed with souvenir stalls. With several courtyards, a large shop, business centre, nightclub, breakfast and dining rooms, nightly rates range from about $40 single, to $70 for couples, $240 for a suite.
New Tours and Destinations Help Travelers Explore China beyond Beijing and Shanghai – from Tea Plantations to Pandas to Spelunking and Much More
San Francisco, Calif. (PRWEB) July 31, 2012
As a major business and technology leader in the modern world, it is easy to forget that China also lays claim to one of the most ancient civilizations alive today. Viator.com – the leading resource for researching and booking more than 10,000 tours and activities in 800-plus destinations in more than 150 countries – has added a selection of new tours and activities for travelers to experience China beyond its two largest cities, Beijing and Shanghai, to get a first-hand glimpse into the country’s mesmerizing sights and attractions.
Paradise, Tea Plantations and Puppetry in Hangzhou
Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, is known for its tea and silk production as well as its rich history and natural beauty. Both – and more – can be enjoyed on Viator’s Hangzhou Cultural Tour including stops at Leifeng Pagoda, the China National Silk Museum and Qinghefang Cultural Street. Marco Polo once compared Hangzhou’s legendary West Lake to paradise, and Viator’s 4-Day Hangzhou Private Tour West Lake and Longjing Tea Plantation includes time to explore the gardens and courtyards surrounding it before enjoying a boat ride on the lake. To escape the city, the Wuzhen Water Town Full-Day Tour from Hangzhou includes the Hundred-Bed Museum, a wine workshop and shadow puppetry.
Relax with Giant Panda Bears in Chengdu
Chengdu, the largest city in Sichuan, is known for its laid-back and quiet approach to tourism. Those looking for a little more activity will enjoy a Half-Day Bike Tour while foodies can discover the culinary wonders of the region on a comprehensive full-day Sichuan Gourmet Food Tour or a Sichuan Cooking Class led by a professional chef. Nowhere is China’s tea culture better represented than in the Sichuan province and on Viator’s Private Tea Making Tour. Travelers looking to discover just what makes this region of China so popular (hint: cute plump black-and-white creatures!) will enjoy the Chengdu Full-Day Tour of the Panda Breeding Center and Sanxingdui Museum or the Half-Day Chengdu Panda Breeding Center Tour with Optional Baby Panda Holding.
Experience the Oldest European Settlement in the Orient: Macau
A former Portuguese colony, Macau today brims with the intoxicating fusion of both cultures, from the architecture to the monuments, churches and temples (and casinos). From Hong Kong, Viator’s Private Tour Macau Day Trip stops at various historical and cultural sites including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ruins of St. Paul’s, the 17th-century Cathedral of St. Paul and the Macau Museum. The 5-Day Hong Kong and Macau Independent Tour gives travelers the flexibility to explore Macau on their own with private transportation and accommodations, and the 5-Day Guangzhou and Macau Independent Tour stops at sites of national and historical importance with ample time to explore at leisure.