The Chinese should travel less than that

sFor nearly a year now, Chinese citizens have had to prove a “necessary purpose to travel” if they want to renew their passport or issue a travel document for the first time. In the future, it may become more difficult for the Chinese to leave their country. The Responsible Border Authority announced Thursday that it will strictly restrict all “non-essential” outbound travel for Chinese citizens. Exactly what this means and how travelers can be stopped is unclear. On Friday, the authority described study and research stays, business trips, overseas employment and medical operations as “essential” trips. Family visits and vacation trips are not included.

Frederic Pogue

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

The reason for the restriction is to fight the Corona virus. Perhaps the reason behind this is that the Chinese who leave the country want to return later and can transmit the virus to the country. Since China’s air traffic control authority has drastically reduced the number of flights from abroad, this possibility is limited anyway. There are countless examples of Chinese who have tried in vain to get home months ago because their flights were canceled or they couldn’t afford the exorbitant tickets. Such stories cast an unfavorable light on a country that otherwise portrays itself as a fervent defender of the interests of its citizens abroad.

By announcing that they will strictly limit non-essential travel, the border authorities are showing their eagerness to comply with the instructions of state and party leader Xi Jinping. “At all levels to carefully study the important speech of Secretary-General Xi Jinping and put his spirit into practice,” the statement said on Thursday. Xi made fighting the coronavirus a priority at a meeting of the party’s top body last week. In addition to exit restrictions, the authority announced stricter measures against illegal border crossings and the issuance of more restrictive visas for foreigners entering the country. The border guards stressed that the movement of goods, suspected of being contaminated with viruses, should be subject to stricter control.

An advertisement that raises concerns

A characteristic of the Chinese system is that the most subordinate policies are particularly vague and often stated in one sentence. So the announcement of “strict” travel restrictions inevitably raised concerns that it was not just about preventing disease and that the restrictions could remain in place after the end of the pandemic.

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In both cases, China’s Corona policy further isolated the country for two years. There were only three international flights at Beijing International Airport on Friday: to Frankfurt, Johannesburg and Taipei. According to official figures, last year there were 80 percent fewer entries and exits than in 2019. Only 335,000 passports were issued in the first half of 2021 – 98 percent less than in the first half of 2019.

Reducing exchange with other countries is in the interest of the entire system. Recently, Chinese scholars were banned from attending the annual online conference of the prestigious Society for Asian Studies. Several well-known Chinese universities have just abandoned their participation in international rankings after Xi Jinping urged universities to “blindly” stop following foreign standards.

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