China has unveiled a trial program allowing visa-free entry for citizens of five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain) and Malaysia. Effective for one year, this initiative aims to boost business and tourism, marking a significant step in facilitating Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges.
Under this program, citizens from the mentioned European countries and Malaysia can enter China for up to 15 days without requiring a visa. The move comes after nearly three years of strict pandemic measures that deterred international travel to China, including mandatory quarantines for all arrivals. Although these restrictions were lifted earlier this year, global travel has yet to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Previously, Japan, Singapore, and Brunei enjoyed visa-free entry to China before the program was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While visa-free entry for Brunei and Singapore resumed in July, it has not been reinstated for Japan.
In the first half of the current year, China recorded 8.4 million entries and exits by foreigners, a significant decrease compared to the 977 million in 2019 before the pandemic. France has welcomed this development, reciprocating by allowing Chinese students with master’s degrees to stay an additional five years in France to facilitate exchanges.
The EU Chamber of Commerce in China expressed optimism, hoping that more European nations would gain visa-free access soon. Describing the move as a “tangible and practical improvement,” the Chamber believes it will enhance business confidence. The Chinese government, aiming to stimulate its economy, has actively sought foreign investment, with business leaders like Elon Musk and Tim Cook participating in trade fairs and meetings. Despite these efforts, foreign tourists remain relatively scarce compared to the pre-pandemic era.
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