Territorial Disputes & PRC Travel Warnings on Philippines

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 10/23/2014 01:30:00 AM
Good luck finding these sorts of wedding photo ops back in the PRC.
An area of study in international relations that nobody has looked at is this one: countries locked in disputes engaging in travel warnings against each other. Since most countries today are WTO members, using discriminatory measures against others' products and services is more difficult to do than in the per-WTO period. So, how are you going to get back at the offending party? Try travel advisories warning that the country in question is some kind of godforsaken hellhole where terrorism is rampant and the rule of law is an illusionary concept.

As it so happens, China has been a particularly avid user of travel warnings against all and sundry transgressors of the will of the Chinese people (or at least the Communist Party). Locked in territorial dispute with the Philippines over its, ah, expansive claims to huge swathes of the South China Sea, the PRC is hitting the Philippines where it hurts. You see, the Philippines is targeting 10 million visitors by 2016 and is using its "It's More Fun in the Philippines" campaign to ramp up foreign interest in it as a tourist destination. Anyway, back to the killjoys...
In its advisory, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited a "worsened security situation in the Philippines" that may see Chinese nationals targeted. It followed an alleged bomb plot against the Chinese embassy, the kidnapping of an 18-year-old man in the southern Philippines and general concern about criminal gangs.

The Philippine military has since dismissed the alleged bomb plot, noting that the man arrested was a fringe politician whose bombs were merely firecrackers, and the Chinese embassy has yet to determine if the kidnapped man was indeed a Chinese national.

Aileen Baviera, a professor who specialises in Philippine-China relations at the Asia Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman, said it seemed hard to justify the advisory. "There are so many Chinese in the Philippines, they're all over the country. So these are really isolated incidents," she said.
As you would guess, the reasons cited are, well, specious. The real reason, most commentators would agree, is to get back at the Philippines with minimal international repercussions over this tinpot banana republic taking it to court over territorial disputes. So, trade-related measures are out, but travel warnings are certainly fair play:
But the advisory was issued amid high tensions between Beijing and Manila over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and is widely seen in the Philippines as going beyond Beijing's security concerns for its tourists. "Hyping up the danger to their own nationals in the Philippines is one way that they [Beijing] put subtle pressure on the government," Ms Baviera said.
There's no doubt about it: the Chinese are playing hardball given the suspect timing:
China issued a similar travel advisory in 2012, at the height of a stand-off at the Scarborough Shoal - a reef claimed by both Beijing and Manila. That time, it cited a protest planned outside the Chinese embassy in Manila. Of the 1,000 protesters expected by the Chinese embassy, only about 200 showed up, and anti-Chinese violence did not materialise.

The new fall in tourists has already had an economic impact. China is the fourth largest source of foreign tourists in the Philippines, after South Korea, the United States and Japan. Chinese tourists spent 6.46bn pesos (£89.5m; $144.7m) in the country between January and August 2014, according to a report by the Philippine Department of Tourism.
Welcome to geopolitics, Asian style.