The Chinese embassy in the United States posted a new notice on its Chinese language website regarding summer vacation travel, particularly in regards to students studying abroad, warning visitors of gun violence, theft, robbery, and high medical costs. The noticed advised visitors to purchase travel insurance for travel in the United States and beware of how to contact emergency services via 911. The notice, published on June 28, comes at a time of increasingly tense Sino-American political and trade tensions, greater concerns within the United States about gun violence and gun laws, and an overall drop in tourist arrivals to the United States.
Embassies and consulates frequently issue warnings about travel and safety. However, this latest notice from the Chinese embassy takes a noticeably more blunt tone about security, the cost of health care, and law enforcement in the United States.
Medical costs in the United States are substantially higher than those in most other countries, including other developed nations
In the notice, the Chinese embassy explicitly warns Chinese visitors, “American medical treatment is extremely expensive and visitors should purchase medical and personal accident insurance according to their personal health and financial situations.”
It’s hard to deny the high cost of medical care in the United States, with or without health insurance. According to the WHO, per capita expenditure on health care in the United States stood at $9,536 in 2015, compared to $7,464 in Norway, $4,934 in Australia, $4,026 in France, and $426 in China. The big gap in prices between medical costs in China and developed countries can be explained by higher standards of living and incomes, along with the quality of medical care.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that medical care in the United States is exponentially more expensive than in comparable developed nations and magnitudes higher than China. Having a medical emergency in the United States while on vacation will undoubtedly be a costly affair. On the other hand, the high quality of care in the United States has nonetheless proven to be a draw for Chinese medical tourists looking for cutting-edge treatments.
According to the Chinese embassy, the United States is not a safe destination for travel
The embassy also argues in its notice that “American public security is not sufficient, shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent.” While far from the highest in the world, the rate of firearm-related death in the United States is abnormally high, especially when compared to developed countries.
According to GunPolicy.org, hosted by the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, in 2016 the rate of firearm-related death per 100,000 people was 11.96 in the United States. However, a significant portion of these deaths is connected with suicides. The next highest rate among developed nations is Argentina at 6.93 in 2014.
The chances of being injured by gunfire while traveling in the United States are still incredibly small, but it’s hard to deny that the frequent, highly publicized shootings and ongoing debate about gun violence in the United States are understandably having a negative impact on the perception of the United States as a destination.
The Chinese embassy also warned Chinese visitors that customs and border officials have the right to search their persons and belongings without a warrant
Along with warning visitors about personal safety and medical costs, the embassy warns Chinese citizens about the potential for unjust inspection by U.S. border and customs agents. “American border and customs law enforcement agents have the right to inspect all persons entering the country (including U.S. citizens), to check nationality, purpose of entry, and items carried, including luggage, electronics, and cars.”
The notice also warns Chinese visitors that while they can be legally subject to search of their persons or luggage without a warrant, they should document any discrimination or illegal practices on the part of U.S. law enforcement officials.
This notice comes at an unfortunate time for the U.S. tourism industry, which has suffered from a significant drop in arrivals last year. U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban and hostile rhetoric have been cited as a cause for the drop in arrivals and a growing impression that the United States is not a welcoming destination.