- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Washington and Beijing are making global headlines with threats over the prospect of a trade war, but they’re also hurling indirect criticisms at each other on a more subtle front: Official travel warnings cautioning their respective citizens about the dangers associated with traveling from China to the U.S. — or vice-versa.

Recent days saw the Chinese Embassy in Washington issue a fresh security advisory to all Chinese nationals thinking about visiting America. According to translated quotes published by Travel and Leisure magazine, the advisory warned that “shooting, robbery, and theft are frequent” in the United States.

“American public security is not sufficient,” added the warning, which referenced “public shootings” and cautioned Chinese tourists to “be alert to suspicious people around you, avoid going out alone at night,” and to take note of the high cost of medical expenses and the danger of summer natural disasters in the U.S.

The warning, which Reuters described Tuesday as similar to a previous advisory posted by the embassy in January, contrasted sharply from the latest China-related travel alert issued by U.S. State Department.

The U.S. alert, also circulated in January, urged Americans to “exercise increased caution in China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.”

“U.S. citizens visiting or residing in China have been arbitrarily interrogated or detained for reasons related to ‘state security,’ ” the State Department advisory said. “Security personnel have detained and/or deported U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

The advisories, largely unreported in the U.S. and Chinese media, have circulated as friction over trade issues has risen between the two nations in recent months.

China’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that Beijing won’t hesitate to retaliate against U.S. tariffs and escalate a trade war with Washington if tensions over economic negotiations with the Trump administration continue to rise.

The Chinese government is “fully prepared to take a package of necessary measures” to safeguard its national interests if a full-blown trade war breaks out between the world’s two biggest economies, said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

He made the assertion to reporters in Beijing amid uncertainty in the Chinese capital around President’s Trump’s threat to begin imposing on Friday some $34 billion in tariffs on imports from China to the United States as part of the administration’s push to address a U.S.-China trade deficit that has soared in recent years.

There was no mention of the trade tensions in reports on the latest travel advisory posted by the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Mr. Lu sidestepped the question Tuesday when asked whether the timing of the advisory was politically motivated.

China has a “duty and responsibility to timely issue alerts against potential risks in the relevant countries or regions for Chinese citizens,” he said. “The summer holiday is the peak season for Chinese citizens to travel to and come from the United States. It is totally within the scope of duty of the Chinese Embassy and consulates in the U.S. to issue such travel alert.”

Travel and Leisure magazine’s report on the alert, meanwhile, noted that China has been warning its citizens about gun violence in the U.S. for years. The report said how, in 2016, after a Chinese student was shot and killed in Arizona, the Chinese Embassy in Washington told travelers to avoid “crime scenes and tough neighborhoods.”

Just a few months ago, the magazine added, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent a notice via WeChat: “Be careful and prepare for the possibility that gun crimes may occur at workplaces, schools, at home and at tourist sites.”

For its own part, the State Department on Monday updated its “Worldwide Caution” travel advisory for Americans planning on visiting anywhere outside the United States.

“U.S. government facilities worldwide remain in a heightened state of alert,” the caution said.

“As terrorist attacks, political violence (including demonstrations), criminal activities, and other security incidents often take place without any warning, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness when traveling abroad,” it said. “When planning a trip and prior to departing the United States, American citizens should consult country-specific Travel Advisories and information pages on travel.state.gov.”

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