Complexities of Representation

Chinese Outbound Tourists as De Facto Ambassadors in Southern Africa


  • Obert Hodzi University of Liverpool
  • Yu-Wen Chen University of Helsinki



Exploring the representational effect of tourism, this study examines factors that influence
perceptions that Chinese outbound tourists are representatives or de facto ambassadors of the Chinese government advancing its national objectives abroad. The paper finds that the Chinese government is ambivalent, and at times inconsistent about endowing individual tourists with the responsibility to serve as its de facto ambassadors. In addition, the paper argues that the role of tourism in China’s bilateral relations with South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe influence general perceptions among bureaucrats and elites in the three countries that Chinese outbound tourists are representatives of the Chinese government.

Keywords: Outbound Tourism, Tourists, Representation, China, Bilateral Relations

Author Biographies

Obert Hodzi, University of Liverpool

Obert Hodzi is Lecturer in Politics at the University of Liverpool. Email:

Yu-Wen Chen, University of Helsinki

Yu-Wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki. Email: