Editorial: Light at the end of the tunnel

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear Readers,

Several positive developments with regard to the permeability of the Chinese border appear to shine a light from the end of the tunnel. The worsening overall situation in China however let some pessimists think that this may well turn out to be the headlight of an approaching locomotive. 

Since August 24, 2022, holders of valid APEC business travel cards and foreign students holding a valid study residence permit do not need any more to apply for a new visa to China and can enter China with the above cards or permits.

Chinese embassies and consulates also resumed accepting X1 visa applications from students who are going to study in China for over six months. Family members (spouse, parents, children under the age of 18, parents-in-law) of foreign students holding such valid X1 study visas or study residence permits can also apply for a so-called private affair (S1 or S2) visa for family reunion. In 2018, about half a million foreigners studied in China, with South Korea, India and Pakistan among the major countries of origin. 

Foreign nationals and accompanying family members coming to China for business reopening in all fields can also apply since August 24, 2022. Visa applications for tourism, medical treatment and other private purposes, however, remain suspended.

Foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits had been blocked since March 2020 from entering China. 

At the same time the number of flights to and from China is further increasing. Punishment for airlines transporting passengers testing positive for CoViD-19 after arrival in China has been eased.

From September, the number of weekly flights between China and Thailand is supposed to go up from three to 15. In the early days of China’s outbound tourism before 1997, leisure travel to Southeast Asia was often masquerading as business trips, getting visa with the help of invitation letters from local companies. With more and cheaper flights becoming available, this circumvention of rules might see a renaissance.   

However, heat waves and droughts opened up yet another front to fight on for the Chinese government at a time when behind the scenes the power struggle seems to go on in full force. Hydropower supplies are endangered as is the harvest of rice and other foodstuff due to lack of irrigation. Massive changes in regulations for bank loans and massive input of capital by the government especially into the real estate sector have yet to show an effect, unemployment keeps rising and the GDP growth rate of 5.5% for the year seems unreachable and is no longer mentioned in the media. Hong Kong SAR sees SARS2-CoV infection numbers rising to 10,000 per day, showing again the futility of trying to apply the Zero-case policy to Omicron. 

Your humble editor a few days ago had the opportunity to talk to a Chinese citizen who managed to escape from Shanghai last month. With the help of a work contract for a company in the Schengen zone, he succeeded in getting a passport and an entry visa to come to Europe. He confirmed that the fight between the different factions among the rulers of China has become more and more apparent and in combination with the lock-downs, the changes in the school curricula, the increasing censorship etc. have resulted for many of his well-educated and affluent friends like himself to search for a way to leave the country for good as soon as possible for their personal freedom and for better education for their children.

It might sound cynical, but as a result the market segment of “Chinese living outside of China” will become increasingly important in the coming years for the tourism industry and of course especially short-term for the time the Chinese borders are still closed. 

As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the whole COTRI WEEKLY team!