Chinese State-Owned Airlines Being Banished From Air Travel During the Chinese New Year Festival
One country that has been on numerous travel wishlist nowadays is China. How can anyone travel to China today? Since September 2021, the Chinese government has stated that all foreign nationals who hold legal residency permits (including work authorizations and visa for a visit or business trip to China) can now travel to China without applying for a new visa. This applies to people born in China or acquired resident status through other countries. However, it has also been made clear that children of diplomatic or Chinese officials cannot travel to China without their parent’s consent.
The reasons for the relaxation of visa restrictions on China are varied. On the one hand, China does not see itself as an American-style ‘maritime nation’ with a huge military presence and close loyalties to the US. The Chinese government argues that it is merely interested in promoting bilateral cooperation with its neighbors, thus preventing the accumulation of American military forces on its territory.
Yet another reason why Chinese tourists can now easily travel to China is the changing face of the Chinese economy, which has grown at a tremendous pace since 2021. This growth has been accompanied by a massive shift in the social structure of the country. Although it has been a decades-long process, this transformation has been made possible by the Chinese community themselves, who have sought greater freedoms and economic opportunities in recent years. Hence, even those who have previously traveled to China without obtaining a visa can easily obtain one for China in travel.
There have been instances of people traveling to China without obtaining their original visa. For example, in April 2021, a foreign national traveling to Beijing with an expired visa was able to pass through the Chinese border crossing of Hualongqiao, and enter China via Hong Kong. On the same day, in the same region of the country, a similar situation arose when a foreign national travelling from Beijing to Huaihe county via Guilin, was not allowed to enter China after having his original visa cancelled by the Chinese authorities. These two incidents are just among the few cases where the circumstances surrounding China travel abroad have changed recently. In the past fourteen days, the Chinese customs administration applied a new entry ban that came into effect on January 1st, effectively tightening the foreign, national travel policy.
On January 1st, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced that all foreign nationals are required to apply for a visa prior to travelling to China. This new policy affects foreigners who do not hold one of the following seven types of Chinese national ID cards: the mainland visa card, foreign national residence card, foreign national work visa, foreign national study permit, and foreign national work title card. These requirements make it impossible for some citizens of foreign countries to obtain a Chinese visa to visit China. Instead, those citizens will only be issued with a VISA upon their submission of a comprehensive passport application. While these changes were put into effect to curb illegal immigration and facilitate the implementation of economic reforms in China, it has also impacted the traveling industry in China with many tourists and businessmen being unable to obtain a Chinese visa for tourism or business purposes.
The MFA stated that the revised visa regulations would be implemented starting from January 16th, and all applications must be submitted no later than this date. Some of the steps that foreigners applying to China will need to take in order to be properly approved for a visa vary by state: verify whether your passport is current or invalid, be present in China during the time period specified by the MFA, and submit all relevant documents in the format specified by the MFA. For example, if a person wants to visit China during the lunar period, he will not be able to use a traditional travel agency because that agency will not be submitting the appropriate documents. Rather, he will be required to submit the document in the format mentioned by the MFA indicating that the traveler is on authorized travel to China.
On January 16th, MFA released twelve Chinese airlines with the names of Sihan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Beijing International Airlines, Chengdu Airlines, Beijing Capital International Airport, Huaihai Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Kinmen Airlines, and Shenyang Airlines as the ones whose flights will be suspended during the Chinese New Year Festival. These twelve airlines join fourteen airlines which had previously decided to suspend their flights in China due to the MFA. Although some of the flights have already been returned to service, there are still a number of flights remaining which will be affected by the Chinese New Year Festival ban. Travel to China is highly prohibited during this time.
The MFA further stated that “these decisions were taken based on our evaluation that China’s economy needs urgent reforms to boost competitiveness and reform its ride-of-the tiger management system,” adding that the Chinese authorities had not yet presented a complete package on how they will implement these reforms. This latest action by the MFA against foreign airlines flying into China indicates that the MFA is not afraid to impose travel restrictions on Chinese state-owned airline companies. Furthermore, this latest measure is only the latest in a series of actions which Chinese officials have implemented in an effort to regain the lost tourist revenue in China due to poor tourism growth over the past few years. For their part, foreign airlines have responded to the Chinese government’s actions by immediately suspending all flights to China during the Chinese New Year. In light of this situation, it is evident that the MFA is struggling to implement their recent decision effectively.