Are the Chinese polite on the mainland?

In the middle of the capital sits the Central Committee for Controlling the Building of Spiritual Civilization. How important this office is can be seen from the exhaustion of its employees, which you get on the phone. "And now we have to take care of it too." The official, who only wants to be cited anonymously and only as a private person, means the "compass for civilized travel" that you have just reissued. It is like this, says the official: "We are doing our best to improve the quality of Chinese tourists."

"Improving the quality of citizens" is an old hobby of China's rulers. The fact that it now hits the tourists is because the Chinese are world champions in travel. The Americans left them behind long ago, overtaking the Germans last year. 83 million Chinese traveled abroad in 2012, and this year it should be 94 million. Reason enough for China's state broadcaster CCTV to recently devote its main news every evening to the phenomenon for a week. "In the last few years the purse of the Chinese has got bigger and bigger," says the moderator. It's good. But: "For citizens all over the world, these people are more and more a mirror through which they get to know China." And that scares the government a little.

"You are like us twenty years ago"

Why? You get an idea of ​​the answer, for example, in a coach full of Chinese tourists in Taipei, where the Taiwanese tour guide gets down to business in the first minute: "Do you want us to get a better picture of you mainland Chinese here?" Silent nod. "Then please don't spit on the street, don't smoke in non-smoking areas and try to be a little quieter." Or the taxi driver in the same city who tells you that until recently he was a tour guide for Chinese tour groups. "That just got too much for me." How so? "They're always shouting, they can't stand in line, they are throwing all their money out of their obsession with branded goods." Short break. "You are like us twenty years ago."

The harshest critics of the Chinese, however, are the Chinese themselves. And primarily the carers in the government. Unfortunately, many tourists have "no nursery" and are "of poor quality". Finds China's Minister of Tourism, Wang Yang. The official Xinhua news agency describes it as follows: "You spit on the street." Or: "You are noisy talking in restaurants." Xinhua sums it up: "While many countries welcome the Chinese as generous consumers, they are also repulsed by their hideous behavior."

Why does the Chinese government think that concerns them? "These tourists," says the presenter of the state television, "damage China's image in the world."

Like other nations with great histories that are not entirely sure of their place in the modern world, the Chinese are obsessed with what others think of them.

The self-flagellation about the boorishness of some of her compatriots abroad sometimes has masochistic traits, it is fed by an endless stream of anecdotes: the Chinese mother who lets her little child do his business on a newspaper in the middle of the departure hall of Taipei airport. The teenage boy from Nanjing who wrote the graffiti "Ding Jinhao was here" on the hieroglyphs in the 3,500-year-old Temple of Luxor, Egypt. The tour group from Zhejiang Province that collectively refused to take the fine stainless steel cutlery out on board a Singapore Airlines plane last week. Allegedly, the group only gave in when a tour guide told people to their consciences: "Stop bringing the Chinese nation into disrepute!"