Saturday, 16 June 2012

Tianjin (Beijing) is not Beijing. Hangzhou (Shanghai) is not Shanghai. Can we get the fact right?

Strange in Singapore, we allow budget airlines and travel agents to promote such misleading information. Tianjin is not part of Beijing and so does Hangzhou not part of Shanghai. Continuing doing so will prove that how ignorance we are in the understanding of China. And the authority allows it and CASE sees nothing wrong about the protection and right ‘to know the fact’ for consumers.

No wonder our tourism board’s Chinese website continues to make mistakes even after few months of ‘repairs’. The latest problem seems to arise from the English-Chinese translation. Now, the Board is considering applying ‘Chinese thinking’ to write the contents rather than based on the translation of their English site.     

Perhaps, they are also thinking Tianjin (Beijing) = Beijing and Hangzhou (Shanghai) = Shanghai is acceptable and there is nothing wrong. So, they choose ‘to close one eye’ and allow budget airlines and travel agents to continue to promote such travels and tours to China.

Tianjin and Beijing are two different autonomous cities in China. (The other two are Shanghai and Chongqing). Hangzhou is the provincial capital of Zhejiang province and is not under the administration of Shanghai. Even in term of distance, in Singapore standard, these cities are far apart, more than one hundred or two hundred kilometres from each other. Landed in different cities is like landed in another country – the way people behave, work attitude and even the application of law.  

Buying a property or doing business in Tianjin or Hangzhou is different from doing the same thing in Beijing or Shanghai.  Shanghai has something like our COE system for cars and Beijing has odd-even number car plates on the road on different days.  No to mention the privilege of residence permits (户口) of Beijing and Shanghai, that some foreign countries give preference to residences of these two cities.   In fact, to many Chinese getting a residence permit in Singapore is easier than getting a 户口 in Beijing and Shanghai.

However, Tianjin and Hangzhou are not small or unknown cities in China. They are among the top 10 most competitive cities in the Greater China. According to a People Daily’s report:
The 10 most competitive Chinese cities last year were in descending order, Hong Kong,Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Qingdao, andChangsha.

Duty to provide right information? Or judge yourself

The government and the tourism board have the duty to provide correct information to Singapore travellers to China. Tianjin is Tianjin not Beijing and Hangzhou is Hangzhou not Shanghai.

Perhaps, in promoting business activities, the government can allow budget airlines and travel agents to provide ‘partially’ correct information. In the opinion of the government, anyway there are transports (or by your own arrangement) to bring you to Beijing or Shanghai even you land in Tianjin or Hangzhou.  But is this the right behavior of a responsible government?  Are we giving the right education and information about China to our people?   

So, the next time, when you read the main stream media and government reports, you must also remind yourself you are likely to read the ‘partially’ correct and ‘partially’ incorrect news and information. For commercial, or even for political reasons, ‘partially’ correct information are given to reflect the whole picture just like many budget airlines, travel agents, money managers, insurance or property brokers do.  

However, the most difficult and challenging task is to differentiate the correct and incorrect information.  Just like what you should prepare yourself when in China – expected the unexpected.  Singaporeans should also prepare for the ‘unexpected’ – so far we already had MRT breakdown, sex corruption, down of a GRC, sorry from PM, etc.

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