January 15, 2020 10:20:20
The first 185 passengers to fly direct from Shanghai to Perth will arrive at Perth Airport this morning, but a China expert is warning Beijing’s track record means their patronage could come with a catch.
China Eastern Airlines will fly between Shanghai and Perth three times a weekTourism WA allocated $1 million to market WA in Shanghai ahead of the trialBut China expert Jie Chen says there are risks in doing tourism deals with China
The flight is part of a month-long trial with state-owned China Eastern Airlines, who will fly between the cities three times a week.
The trial is expected to inject $4 million into Western Australia’s economy and has been heralded with much fanfare by the State Government.
But China expert Dr Jie Chen said any state making arrangements with China must be aware that what the Chinese Communist Party gave in terms of tourism deals, it could also take away.
“China being a party state is quite different from let’s say India,” the UWA associate professor said.
“We get a lot of tourists from India, a lot of students from India, you don’t have to worry whether the Indian Government itself was capable of using this as some sort of diplomatic or political weapon, but the Chinese Government can do that.
“That’s the concern, that’s the issue that makes China different from the other major sources of international students and tourism to Australia in general, to WA in particular.”
Dr Chen cited the example of the tiny pacific nation of Palau, which experienced a dramatic rise and then fall in Chinese tourist numbers in 2017.
Analysts suggested Palau’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan were to blame for Beijing effectively banning Chinese people from Palau.
Dr Chen said Taiwanese tourist operators had recently experienced similar market manipulation, but said WA was at a low risk of such action.
“Just on the basis of regional experiences, hypothetically you can’t rule out a scenario [in WA] where dependency can breed political, diplomatic leverage or issues which can be used as leverage by the Chinese Government,” he said.
WA Government pays for media coverage
The State Government’s tourism authority, Tourism WA, has allocated $1 million to market WA in Shanghai ahead of the trial.
Unusually, the Government also paid for a journalist and camera operator from 7 News Perth to fly with Tourism Minister Paul Papalia to Shanghai to promote the first flight to Perth.
In a statement, a WA Government spokesman confirmed the arrangement.
“In conjunction with China Eastern Airlines, Tourism WA paid for one reporter and camera operator to cover the inaugural direct flight from Shanghai to Perth,” the spokesman said.
The flight trial will end on February 17 and there are no guarantees it will be extended.
Earlier this week, the Government announced that Mr Papalia, who will be on the inaugural flight, was in China meeting China Eastern Airlines staff in a bid to turn the trial into an ongoing service.
Return economy fares will be priced from $698.
It is expected tourists flying from Shanghai to Perth will want to visit the Hutt Lagoon Pink Lake and Rottnest Island.
January 15, 2020 09:18:09