China’s consumers cure to cooling S.Korea ties

By Zhou Junsheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/11 19:58:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Despite a row between China and South Korea over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, a large number of Chinese tourists chose South Korea as their destination during the just concluded National Day holiday.

"Seoul expects 250,000 Chinese tourists in early October," Yonhap News Agency reported late last month.

However, given Seoul's decision to deploy THAAD, Sino-South Korean ties have gone through some twists and turns this year. When Chinese tourists flocked to Seoul, dissatisfaction stirred among China's public opinion, with some even believing those 250,000 Chinese tourists had saved the South Korean economy.

Moreover, during the National Day holiday, a group of Chinese tourists were denied entry to the South Korean island of Jeju and were confined to a tiny dark room at the airport. These rejected tourists were also condemned by Chinese netizens, who said they have no one to blame but themselves.

It is without question that Seoul's deployment of THAAD injured China's interests and it is hence understandable for Chinese to vent their anger against South Korea about everything related to the country. If Seoul persists in deploying the system, it is believed that the Chinese government will be bound to carry out countermeasures. Yet careful consideration is needed in whether it's necessary to extend such countermeasures to economic and people-to-people exchanges between the two nations.

After 30-plus years of reform and opening-up, China's economy has integrated into the world, resulting in mutually supportive ties. On the one hand, China's strong consumer market is of great value to the globe, which has just suffered a financial crisis. In the meantime, China, which is proactively promoting economic transformation, is in need of collaboration in terms of industry with countries all over the world.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Seoul, bilateral economic and trade cooperation has been developing smoothly. Most major South Korean multinational enterprises have invested in China. The former's electronic, automotive, cosmetics and cultural products are very popular among Chinese consumers. Quite a few Chinese buy South Korean goods without going abroad. The China-South Korea Free Trade Agreement was inked last year, which is the largest bilateral deal for Beijing in terms of trade volume. Since going into effect, the agreement has comprehensively upgraded bilateral economic and trade ties, benefiting consumers from both countries.

Unfortunately, South Korea's actions regarding THAAD have filled the process with fluctuations. But at this crucial moment, both sides need to keep cool heads more than ever to prudently deal with the issue and safeguard the bilateral economic and trade ties. The large number of Chinese tourists that flooded into South Korea showed their desire for South Korean products and strong purchasing power. Hopefully this can, to some extent, cause Seoul to reflect on its decision over THAAD.

In the era of globalization, economic and trade relations between countries are inextricably interwoven. People who appeal to introduce sanctions against foreign products or markets will fail to realize their own country's interests, and such measures will most likely do more harm than good. The increasing number of Chinese who can travel abroad indicates not only their need to enrich their lives, but also signals China's growing strength. In light of this, there is no need to criticize Chinese tourists abroad. In addition, as a citizen of a major power, we should have a broader mindset.

The author is an economic commentator. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

Posted in: Viewpoint

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