In a concerted effort to restore its once-thriving tourism sector, China has announced significant relaxations to its visa application requirements. The nation hopes to stimulate a resurgence of international visitors after experiencing a sharp decline due to strict COVID-19 restrictions from 2020 to 2022. China does not grant visa-free access to travelers from the majority
27 November 2023| Post by
In a significant move to boost its tourism sector, China has announced a temporary 1-year visa exemption for citizens of Malaysia and 5 European countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.
The visa exemption, effective from December 1, 2023, until November 30, 2024, applies to travelers entering China for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends, or transiting for no more than 15 days.
This decision marks a considerable shift from China’s stringent COVID-19 measures, which had effectively closed its borders for 3 years.
Mao Ning, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, stated that the aim is: “to facilitate the high-quality development of Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges and high-level opening up to the outside world.”
Chinese Eases COVID-19 Restrictions
In September 2023, China began to ease visa requirements in an effort to boost its tourism sector. One significant change was reducing the required travel history from 5 years to just 1.
China also expanded its visa-free transit policy to include Norway and resumed 15-day visa-free entry for citizens of Singapore and Brunei.
Following these changes, China’s aviation authority reported a gradual recovery in international flights, with expectations of reaching 71% of the total from 4 years ago.
The European Chamber of Commerce in China views these measures as a positive step towards facilitating people-to-people exchanges and boosting business confidence.
Re-Establishing China’s Image
The Chinese government is not only aiming to revive its tourism sector but also to mend its global image.
Recent years have seen China’s international reputation affected by various issues, such as its handling of COVID-19, human rights concerns, tensions over Taiwan, and trade disputes.
A Pew Research Center survey highlighted that 67% of adults in 24 surveyed countries held unfavorable views of China. By relaxing visa restrictions, China is attempting to rebuild its image and strengthen international relations.
Easier Travel for Visa-Free Countries
This change to China’s visa policy is poised to significantly ease travel for citizens of the included countries.
German Ambassador to China, Patricia Flor, emphasized the unprecedented ease this decision would bring for German citizens. However, she expressed hope for the extension of these measures to all EU member states.
For visa-free travel from China to Germany to be reciprocated, approval from all members of the European Schengen Agreement is required. This makes a reciprocal agreement more difficult for all European countries involved.
The temporary exemption is expected to boost not only tourism but also economic exchanges. Volker Treier from the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce sees it as a vital signal for fostering business and personal contacts, especially in maintaining German machinery and ensuring quality standards.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, during her visit to Beijing, appreciated this development, indicating mutual benefits.
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China’s culture and tourism ministry has announced the lifting of the ban on Chinese group travelers for over 70 countries. The pandemic-era restrictions were finally removed on August 10, 2023. Chinese citizens traveling in an organized group can now visit key markets in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North America that were previously restricted.