Hong Kong (CNN) — Cannon Yu lives in Shantou, Guangdong Province.
In the past, her sales job at a packaged food company has taken her to business conferences around the world. But she hasn’t left China since early 2020, answering her sales calls online rather than in person in Thailand, Germany, Morocco and elsewhere.
While those policies keep Chinese people in, they also keep most foreigners out, making it less likely for people like Yu to interact with people from other countries.
And while China still hasn’t announced a plan to remove quarantine and other roadblocks to international travel, Yu can’t wait to get back on the road and travel again.
However, there is one exception: she has major reservations about visiting the United States.
How the East looks at the West
Scott Moskowitz, a geopolitical risk analyst for APAC at the decision-information firm Morning Consult, says state-controlled media in China have been ramping up examples of anti-Asian violence in the US to make citizens less interested in going there.
It is “a strategically composed ecosystem that overreports and sensationalizes negative foreign news compared to the tight controls on reporting challenging or troubling domestic cases,” he says.
And Yu’s beliefs confirm that.
“They look discriminatingly at people (there),” she says. “Not just for Chinese, but also for black people. It’s very difficult to give fair treatment to all people in the United States.”
She adds that she has spoken to friends who have visited the US and claimed they were detained and searched by customs officers before being allowed to leave the airport.
According to Morning Consult data, 22% of mainland Chinese respondents are “not interested at all” in visiting the US, and another 23% say they are “not very interested”.
Of the respondents, 57% say violent crime is the main reason they don’t want to go to the US, while 52% say terrorism, 36% say petty crime and 44% say they are concerned about anti-China bias by locals.
Instead, some Chinese travelers are now looking elsewhere, with destinations in Europe clearly preferred over the US, according to the survey.
The Rise of Violence
Meng, who is of Taiwanese descent, represents parts of Queens, New York’s diverse borough that is home to many Asian Americans.
These incidents – which range from street harassment to physical violence – are receiving a lot of attention outside the US, including in China.
The current geopolitical tensions are not helping. Moskowitz says the perception that the US is China’s biggest rival has increased attention to stories of anti-Asian discrimination or violence in the country, although similar incidents are happening elsewhere.
“This difference is especially exaggerated in terms of (Chinese state media) reporting on the US compared to Europe and other places. Some of this is strategic and deliberate, put together to enhance the appeal and soft power of the country that China sees as its great rival , both politically and ideologically,” he told CNN Travel.
“There are strong perceptions in China that there is a lot of global prejudice against their country,” added Moskowitz. “Personal and national identities are very strongly linked in China, so there may be concerns that more macro and political grievances and resentments (both real and perceived) with a country will be returned to the individual when traveling abroad.” .”
How to change perceptions?
While changing the way Chinese travelers see the US won’t happen overnight, it’s not impossible.
“The results of this study specifically suggest that travel companies and destinations should pay more attention to safety-related messages in marketing campaigns targeting Chinese consumers,” said Lindsey Roeschke, travel and hospitality analyst at Morning Consult, who co-wrote the study with Moskowitz.
She adds, “Travel brands should provide pre-departure information about safety tools and tips. Those who wish to take additional action should consider providing access to safety-focused guidebooks or a designated personal security representative during travellers’ stay.”
Some countries have issued specific warnings to their citizens about traveling to the US, especially regarding gun violence.
As for Cannon Yu, she’s still keen to travel somewhere outside of China once things ease.
Despite everything, she is still curious about the US and hopes to eventually see it for herself.
There is one place in particular on her bucket list: Las Vegas. “I want to gamble,” she says. And then, after a pause, she continues, “I want to make friends.”
Top image: Asian-American community leaders place flowers at a memorial to murder victim Christina Yuna Lee after an anti-Asian hate rally in New York City. Photo by Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images.