BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - China wants to use both inbound and outbound tourism to help promote its international image, which has been battered by endless product and food safety scandals and ethnic unrest.
"If a country has a good national image, it will attract greater numbers of overseas tourists, and public praise from a tourist is the best publicity for a country," said Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office, or Cabinet spokesman's office.
China's tourism authorities were a "front line" in promoting the world's understanding of China, Wang added.
To that end, the national tourist authority will work with the government's pervasive propaganda machine to improve China's image overseas.
Chinese tourists going abroad could also help in the campaign, said Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration of China.
"A large number of Chinese citizens traveling abroad ... will have great significance in promoting and moulding China's national image and raising China's soft power," Shao told a brief news conference.
Recent stories of substandard or outright fake food and other consumer products as well as riots in China's restive Tibet and Xinjiang regions over the past few years have hurt China's international image.
Beijing has also in the past expressed concern about poor behaviors of Chinese tourists abroad, putting up notices in airports asking them not to spit, talk loudly or jump in front of queues while they are on holiday overseas.
Reporting by Sabrina Mao and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa