The World’s Biggest Tourists

Comrades are filled with political zeal to help their societies advance further. So often, there is no time for leisure, or is there? But Globalist contributor and UPI columnist Martin Walker knows better.

August 29, 2001

Comrades are filled with political zeal to help their societies advance further. So often, there is no time for leisure, or is there? But Globalist contributor and UPI columnist Martin Walker knows better.

When President Guido de Marco of Malta visited Beijing this summer and invited his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, for a return visit to the island, he was following protocol. But once again China's ebullient head of state showed that he could be a bundle of surprises.

To the consternation of the Maltese government, Jiang not only accepted but announced that he would be there in three weeks. Such official visits are usually prepared months in advance, but the Maltese swallowed the short notice and Jiang arrived along with numerous security men.

Jiang took one look at the Mediterranean island's inviting beaches and said he wanted to go for a swim. So the Chinese president, his hosts and 38 Chinese security men piled onto a luxury yacht belonging to a local businessman and headed for a secluded bay famous for its beauty and its clear water. Along the coastline on Jiang's route more security men lurked behind rocks and mingled with the bathing tourists.

One observer said more than 1,000 Chinese security men had been deployed along the coast. According to reliable accounts, the boat party was in high spirits and Jiang had a good frolic in the water. But a senior Chinese official privately apologized to the Maltese for the party's raucous behavior.