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And as mounting trade tensions with the United States have shown, China can and will regulate access to its growing market. Beijing has already brandished the carrot and the stick of access to Chinese consumers for agricultural, luxury and manufactured goods. But one overlooked tactic is its control over how many of its citizens it allows to go abroad and where they can visit. Tourism is an unlikely tool of statecraft, but the massive growth in the number of outbound Chinese travelers means their combined economic weight can have sharp consequences that Beijing will continue to use. China's rise has lifted many boats. Today, the Chinese middle class matters on the world stage. And access to that market is an attractive lure that the government can extend or retract at will. In 1999, under 3 percent of China's population — around 29 million people — could have been considered middle class according to Pew Research benchmarks based on levels of disposable income. By 2013, that number had ballooned to 421 million people, or over one-quarter of its population.
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