China declared victory over the coronavirus, abandoned (in December) the zero-Covid strategy and will return to issuing tourist visas to foreigners for the first time since the pandemic broke out three years ago. The first visas valid from after March 28, 2020 they will be delivered tomorrow, March 15th. In Hainan Island and Shanghai (for cruise ships) entry will be possible without a visa, as well as groups of tourists from Hong Kong and Macao.
Before the pandemic shutdown, tens of millions of international visitors came to China each year (the country welcomed 65.7 million international visitors in 2019, according to data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization): the tourism industry has been hit hard by the strict measures anti-Covid. But, according to analysts, now that the borders are reopened, and tourist visas are being issued again, the country can expect a significant increase in international arrivals.
The restrictions have had a severe impact on the Chinese economy: its GDP grew by only 3% in 2022, the worst result in nearly half a century. For this year, Beijing has set a target of 5% with new premier Li Qiang saying the world’s second-largest economy is stabilizing and recovering.
The change of policy comes in a climate of ongoing tensions between China and the US on various issues, from the response to the pandemic to the “balloon-spy” incident. In early January, Chinese officials also warned they would take retaliatory action against countries, such as the United States, that impose Covid tests on travellers. In turn, the removal of the test as a mandatory requirement for travelers entering China will probably have several positive implications for the relationship between the two countries: it could favor travel and trade between the United States and China, with positive economic implications, and help ease tensions, at least with regard to travel disputes.
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Source: Vanity Fair
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