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China Tries to Teach Manners to Chinese Tourists

The Chinese government has issued guidelines on manners for its citizens traveling at home and abroad, saying poor behavior by Chinese tourists is damaging the country's image.

As China becomes wealthier, the number of Chinese able to travel around the country and visit other countries has increased. There are a lot more to come, and the government says Chinese tourists need to improve their manners.

The official China Daily newspaper has quoted the Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee, the Communist Party Central Committee agency that watches over social behavior, as saying the behavior of some Chinese travelers is not compatible with the nation's economic strength and its growing international status.

So, the government has launched a campaign to educate tourists against inappropriate behavior, such as littering, talking loudly and eating without first washing one's hands.

Lin Kang is vice manager of the China International Tourism Agency, one of China's largest. He says Chinese tourists often litter, are inappropriately loud in places like museums, and need to close their mouths when chewing food.

"I think the manners problem is related to education," he said. "If they did not have much schooling, they do not show a very civilized behavior."

It has been a recurring phenomenon in Asia, as country after country has become developed. In the 1970's, it was Japanese tour groups that invited ridicule abroad with their unsophisticated ways. In the '80's and '90's, it was newly traveling South Koreans and Taiwanese. Now, it is mainland Chinese, who are struggling to come to grips with international norms of behavior.

And there are plenty of them. Last year, 31 million of China's 1.3 billion people traveled abroad. By 2020, that number is expected to rise to 100 million a year.

Lin Kang, the Chinese tourism manager, says his company holds etiquette classes to educate tour groups before they travel to other countries.

The rules of politeness are part of the Chinese government's wider effort to show the world a civilized face when Beijing hosts the 2008 Olympics.

On the streets of Beijing, people often loudly clear their throats and spit on the ground. Littering is a common problem - in busy public places, such as bus stations, the ground is covered with trash.

The government hopes its education campaign will curb such behavior before the Olympic games start in two years.

Hundreds-of-thousands of foreigners are expected to flood into Beijing for the international sporting event. So, too, are millions of Chinese tourists.