Chinese State-Owned Airline Suspended All Flights to China, Effective February 1

The Chinese government has implemented an Entry Ban on Korean and Japanese flights to China. The reasons for the Entry Ban are not specified and it is therefore not known at this time. However, a few of the possible reasons include tourism in unreported areas, activities aimed at promoting Taiwan and U.S. national interests, Taiwanese goods and assistance in earthquake reconstruction in Sichuan. There will probably be more to this story as the situation develops.

The United States has imposed travel restrictions against China based upon its determination that China does not have respect for international law regarding travel. The United States has threatened economic retaliation if the Chinese authorities do not comply with their demands. The United States and Japan have long been at odds with China over trade, in particular with regard to Korea and Taiwan. Recently, the United States has announced a withdrawal of its recognition of the existence of thePRC as a legitimate territorial possessions in northeast Asia. There is no public information regarding the withdrawal.

Many foreign tourists traveling to China are concerned about the impact of the new Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on their travel plans. The new VWP regulations have been placed on certain types of travelers originating from China. Some of these categories of travelers include: journalists, legal and academic professionals, family-visit applicants, and children traveling with a family member or with parents. These visa restrictions affect both the duration of stay in China and the type of credit or debit card used to facilitate travel to China.

On April 15, 2021, the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the United Nations issued a report that is widely reported in the Chinese press, confirming an entry ban on all citizens of south Korea and Taiwan traveling to China. The PRC considers these areas as their territory. The UN report claims that the ban is due to “incidents and cases of dangerous behavior by some Taiwanese who entered China illegally.” In addition, the report indicates that the revised V WP does not apply to the nationals of Hong Kong, Macau, and the Philippines.

On February 9, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a strongly worded statement announcing that it will impose an entry ban on all foreign nationals entering China. The Ministry stated that it will closely monitor travel to and within the Chinese mainland as part of China’s international policy. The MFA further stated that it will take immediate action against any country that orders the withholding or cancellation of Chinese travel documents by international travel agencies. The ministry further added that it will closely monitor activities of organizations that advise people to travel to China. The tightening of travel policies may have negative implications for foreigners traveling to China, particularly those intending to visit China for business purposes.

The People’s Republic of China did not immediately respond to the announcement, but it has reportedly tightened its travel policy in response to the U.S. decision to impose an entry ban on all foreign nationals. On February 12, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on China’s website reiterating the country’s demand for unity among nations, particularly those that border China. In addition, he confirmed that China is firm in its stance of not tolerating any travel restrictions on China’s citizens. In response to questions regarding the implementation of the new law, the spokesperson did not answer whether travel to China will now be banned altogether, only reiterating that the Chinese government will take necessary actions to implement whatever policy changes may result from its implementation.

The travel advisory sent to travelers on state-owned airlines also did not address whether Chinese passengers can still travel to China via this method, or if they would need to book flights via a different channel. It did indicate that all passengers should exercise due diligence and caution when traveling through China, especially when traveling through the area. This travel advisory was effective immediately, as it was issued shortly before President Trump was set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar del Sur Resort in Mexico. No flights to China are currently scheduled to depart from Mexico for the People’s Republic of China.

The new travel advisory from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically addressed traveling to China by airplane. It advised against traveling by airplane to China until further notice, stating that the Ministry “considered that security developments have made it necessary for the people of China to travel via flights offered by state-owned airlines.” The travel advisory also provided no indication of what security measures it considered to be necessary for Chinese citizens to take during their travel to China. For travelers already planning to travel to China via flying, it may be difficult to determine which airlines operate out of the country, and for which destinations. Until such time, the Chinese government advised foreign nationals traveling to China via flying to exercise due diligence and research the airline industry prior to departure.