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Cablegate: Promoting Anhui Tourism to Americans: A Hard Sell

VZCZCXRO3524
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHGH #0756/01 3270547
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230547Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6466
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1536
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0964
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0941
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0964
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1088
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0783
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0136
RUEAEPA/EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 6980

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SHANGHAI 000756

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM AND INR/EAP - CLARKE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EIND PGOV EINV ELTN EAIR ECON CH KS
SUBJECT: PROMOTING ANHUI TOURISM TO AMERICANS: A HARD SELL


1. (U) SUMMARY: Anhui Province, the poorest province in
Shanghai's consular district, hopes to jump-start its economy by
promoting tourism. Although home to many beautiful natural and
historical sights, Anhui is finding it difficult to attract mass
numbers of Western tourists, and Americans in particular. END
SUMMARY.

THE FIRST ANHUI TOURISM FESTIVAL
--------------------------------

2. (U) At the invitation of the Anhui Foreign Affairs Office,
ConOff attended the opening of the first-ever Anhui Tourism
Festival, awkwardly subtitled: "2007 China (Anhui)
Middle-Eastern Tourism Fair." The event was attended by
representatives from only a few foreign missions (U.S.,
Malaysia, Sweden, and Israel) and two foreign tourism offices
(South Korea and Hong Kong). The festival began on November 17
with an opening ceremony, during which the provincial governor
and other local officials sang the praises of Anhui's tourism
preeminence as spectators and official invitees stood listening
semi-attentively in the freezing rain. After an hour of
speeches, two marching bands (playing two different songs)
provided a dissonant and not-so-grand finale as fireworks
sputtered defiantly against the downpour and ungrateful audience
members were pelted with clumps of wet confetti.

IT'S A HARD RAIN IS GONNA FALL
------------------------------

3. (U) The poorest province in Shanghai's consular district,
Anhui has long suffered from weak infrastructure and frequent
flooding. Anhui's topography is flat in the north, and
hilly-to-mountainous in the south. Lying within the Yangtze and
Huaihai river basins, Anhui experiences yearly floods. In
addition, the mountainous terrain in the southern region has
historically made transportation and access into and out of
Anhui difficult. In Eastern China, Anhui is clearly the lowest
province on the totem pole. For example, during periods of
unseasonably high rain in the 1980s and 1990s, the Chinese
Central Government chose to dam tributaries of the Yangtze River
and purposely flood Anhui to spare the more developed and
economically important eastward neighbor, Jiangsu Province, at
Anhui's expense.

WELL BEHIND THE PACK
--------------------

4. (U) Economically, Anhui lags far behind the other provinces
in East China. Most of Anhui's wealth is concentrated in
industrial regions close to the Yangtze River, such as Hefei,
Wuhu, and Maanshan. Anhui's 2006 USD 79.4 billion GDP is
roughly one-third that of neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu
provinces. According to provincial officials, Anhui's average
income is RMB 2,000 (USD 266) per month, compared with
approximately RMB 6,000 in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, and
RMB 8,000 in Shanghai. When asked by ConOff, local university
students and school children expressed their hopes to someday
leave Anhui for Shanghai and (less often) Beijing. The majority
of "Mingong" (immigrant workers) in Shanghai come from Anhui to
be maids, janitors, and work in dangerous high-rise
construction.

5. (U) Efforts by the Central Government to strengthen Anhui's
economy have been largely unsuccessful. For example, to promote
technological development in Anhui, in 1970 the Central
Government moved the prestigious University of Science and
Technology of China (USTC) from Beijing to Hefei, Anhui's
capital. Unfortunately, according to local officials, USTC
graduates invariably leave Hefei for employment in Beijing and
Shanghai, or pursue post-graduate work abroad. Local officials
are proud, however, that Anhui produces more refrigerators than
any other province in China. (NOTE: Although refrigerators were
mentioned several times during the visit, Anhui officials made
no mention of Anhui's most famous corporation: the automobile
company Chery based in Wuhu, which has recently moved to enter
the American sub-compact, under USD 10,000 auto market. END
NOTE.)

GREAT SIGHTS, BAD LOCATION
--------------------------

SHANGHAI 00000756 002 OF 003

6. (U) In a bold attempt to look beyond home appliances, Anhui
is seeking economic advancement through tourism. As part of the
tourism festival, local authorities took ConOff to visit Anhui's
tourist destinations, chief among which is "Huangshan" (Yellow
Mountain). Three hours south of Hefei by car, Huangshan is one
of China's most popular tourist spots and a UNESCO World
Heritage Site since 1990. The area is renowned for its scenic
beauty, jutting granite peaks, and unique "giant Banzai"
Huangshan pine trees. Because many of its peaks are above cloud
level, views of the clouds from above offer beautiful views and
interesting light-effects, which over the centuries have been
given wistful names like Sea of Clouds and Buddha's Light. With
its hot springs, natural pools, and gorges, Huangshan is an
oft-featured subject of traditional Chinese paintings and
literature. A photo gallery of Huangshan's scenic beauty can be
found here:
http://www.phototravels.net/china/yellow-moun tains-huangsha
n.html. Huangshan is surprisingly popular with South Koreans, with
direct flights daily to Korea from the relatively small
Huangshan village airport. Besides Koreans, ConOff saw no other
non-Chinese tourists on the mountain.

LOCAL CULTURE, VERY LOCAL CUISINE
---------------------------------

7. (U) In Yixian County, an hour's drive from Huangshan, lay
Xidi village and Hongcun village, which together in 2000 became
the "Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui" UNESCO World Heritage
Site. Hongcun was a film location for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon." Due to the popularity of this Oscar-winning film,
tourism to these cities has dramatically increased. The
architecture and carvings of these cities date back to the Ming
and Qing dynasties, and are among the best examples of their
kind in China. At each of the cities, tourist pay an entrance
fee of about USD 10, and are free to visit and explore hundreds
of well-preserved wooden residences with beautiful carvings.
These residences are still occupied, giving tourists a flavor
for what life must have been like in these ancient villages.

8. (U) In addition to its cultural heritage, Anhui is very
proud of its local food, which officials claim as one of the
eight great traditional Chinese cuisines. Combining cooking
elements from throughout Anhui, including the Yixian
Hui-speaking region, the cuisine is known for its use of river
fish, wild game, and herbs all prepared in uncomplicated ways.
ConOff had the dubious privilege of sampling various forms of
wild game (i.e., frog, hedgehog, snail, and several varieties of
unnamed innards) prepared in simple ways (most frequently boiled
for a very, very long time). ConOff was both impressed and
puzzled by the differentiation made by locals between ostensibly
similar dishes (e.g., "boiled stone frog," "boiled field frog,"
"boiled mountain frog," etc.) When ConOff commented on this
phenomenon to an official from the Anhui Tourism Council, the
official thoughtfully responded that perhaps the ConOff had not
yet developed a refined palate for the nuances of amphibian
delicacies. ConOff admitted that this was indeed true, and that
this handicap apparently extended to a wide variety of snail
dishes, as well.

COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) Anhui tourism officials commented frequently throughout
the trip that they do not receive many western, particularly
American tourists. One especially astute official opined that
this was because the main draw to Anhui is Huangshan, nicknamed
the Yosemite of China, which (although unique in China) was
similar in nature to several national parks in the United
States. Americans, he said, don't need to travel to China to
see impressive mountains; moreover American mountains have ski
resorts. While Americans do go to Huangshan, Anhui officials
noted that the majority of these are (ethnic) Chinese Americans,
and for the most part older, Chinese-born, naturalized U.S.
citizens. ConOff feels many Americans would truly enjoy Xidi
and Hongcun cities, which despite the cuisine, were truly
impressive examples of what many Americans expect to see when
visiting China. Unfortunately, Anhui is distant from many of
the typical tourist sites visited by Americans in China:
Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, etc. Given the average American's lack

SHANGHAI 00000756 003 OF 003


of familiarity with Huangshan, and Anhui in general, it is
unlikely that American tourism will expand rapidly without
concerted efforts by Anhui Tourism Officials to promote itself
among American tourists and travel agencies. END COMMENT.
JARRETT

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