China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
During the early 1950s, before the complete nationalization of industry and the era of “high socialism” began, the tourism industry of the People’s Republic of China remained very much in flux. In issues of China Traveler (Lüxing zazhi) published between late-1949 and the magazine’s demise in 1954, its editors presented a vision of the tourism industry balanced precariously between socialist cultural/historical representation and the earning of much-needed foreign currency. In their words, “the correct vision of travel” was a “vision of travel in the service of the people”, yet, at the same time, they conceptualized the landscape of the nation as a form of export commodity. In the early 1970s, debates over how to conceptualize the tourism industry resumed, and the place of China’s history, culture, and scenery as national assets in a global marketplace again became a subject of contention.
How did the government of the People’s Republic of China conceptualize the visual documentation of the nation’s landscape through tourism? At a time when visual culture was aggressively employed by the state to curate the image of China at home and abroad, how did state actors deal with competing forms of visual imagination of China by foreign tourists? Drawing on files from the Shanghai Municipal Archives, published collections of government documents, memoirs, and tourist guidebooks, this paper explores the shifting meaning of the term “scenery export” (fengjing chukou) from Mao-era China to the beginning of the post-Mao era.