The Chinese Grand Tour



Overseas Chinese tourism is on the rise. Around 30 million Chinese took foreign vacations last year. Chinese visitors are venturing to Britain in increasing numbers, encouraged by their home government, keen that Chinese citizens are seen to be enjoying the fruits of the country's economic miracle.

And Chinese visitors abroad are left in no doubt that they are representing their country. Official circulars remind them to act as ""ambassadors"" for their country. Several times in the past few years the Spiritual Civilisation Steering Committee of the Communist Party has issued bossy instructions calling on Chinese tourists to avoid spitting, queue-jumping, loudness or haggling in shops with fixed prices.

The favoured mode of travel for Chinese visitors to Britain is the planned bus tour, but the route these bus tours follow is rather idiosyncratic. Whereas most foreign tourists to Britain follow a predictable tourist trail - Buckingham Palace, ruined Castles, beautiful cathedrals and quaint market towns, the Chinese are more interested in seeing places with a Chinese connection.

The Willow Tree in Cambridge is famous in China because it is where the modern poet Xu Zhimo wrote his poem ""On Leaving Cambridge."" Bus loads of Chinese Tourists stop there now. Philip Dodd boards a coach and goes with the Chinese tourists who have an idiosyncratic view of Britain and spends a night with them in Manchester's Chinatown.