The Chinese government has implemented a number of new measures to limit the numbers of Chinese entering or exiting the country in January. This includes a new exit-entry ban, a new set of entry requirements for tourists and a ban on the use of some foreign currency. Ineffective passports are another major concern. The implementation of these measures seems aimed at preventing more tourists from taking trips abroad to have fun, or to gamble. Many of these tourists are comprised of financially well-heeled Chinese businesspeople. The loss of tourist money may have an impact on the Chinese economy over the long term.
On December 15, the Chinese government notified all persons traveling to China that they will need a Chinese passport to enter the country. This comes in addition to the current exit-entry ban that also applied to citizens of select countries that are not part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The U.S. embassy in China received a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which notified them that all travelers intending to travel to China would need to obtain a visa prior to departure. This also applies to passengers who were already en route to China and then changed their departure date.
On December 17th, a twenty-two-year-old American citizen was detained in Beijing for undisclosed reasons. The Chinese government did not provide any details on the reasons for the detention. However, news reports indicate that the citizen had been detained for trying to procure counterfeit foreign documents. The State Department issued a statement saying that all citizens are free to travel to China. However, the department added that it “considers the situation with the individual to be positive” and that the Chinese government “frequently takes steps to improve foreign country’s compliance with its laws and regulations.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not specify when the ban would be implemented. It only stated that all Chinese citizens applying for a visa to travel abroad will require a visa-free travel document. This is an indication that the Chinese government plans to implement an effective February 1st Entry ban. Many foreign governments have imposed similar visa-free travel measures in the past. It is unclear as to whether or not this measure will be effective.
China’s tourism bureau released a travel advisory on January 6th, stating that all visas required for travel to China will be withdrawn effective February 1st. This advisory does not mention any specific countries or cities. This is contrary to the travel advisory released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both sources indicate that the Chinese government will enforce visa restrictions on travelers originating from certain nations.
There are a number of reasons that the Chinese government could impose an exit ban. One possibility is that China fears that Republicans could overrun the country and occupy China. The Chinese communist government has repeatedly warned its citizens to stay away from overseas territory deemed to be occupied by the Republic of China. There have also been several incursions by border skirmishes between Chinese border units and the Republic of Korea and Taiwan.
In addition to the implementation of a travel ban, the Chinese government has indicated that it will implement exit controls along the border with North Korea. Since North Korea is considering a key sponsor of international terrorism, China’s main goal would be to prevent foreign citizens from traveling to or from the country. Additionally, the United States State Department indicated that the current deportation protocol does not apply to citizens of the Peoples Republic of China traveling to China. This may indicate that the Chinese government will begin detaining US citizens currently in the country on similar grounds.
In light of the above activities, there is no doubt that the Chinese government will implement an effective March 1st exit ban along the border with the DPRK. The reasons for this action are unclear. However, given the recent attacks in northern Korea on U.S. bases in Guam and Hawaii, and inbound, Chinese naval vessels conduct drills in the South China Sea, the new exit restrictions could be related to those events. Whatever the reason, the Chinese government has clearly determined that it will impose an exit ban and I expect that the Chinese citizens currently in China will abide by the new rules. Given this implementation, the Chinese people should have no fear travelling to or within the country.