Travel to China – Are Chinese Authorities Following the norm?
There’s a warning for anybody else travelling to China: you might just be next. For any one traveler travelling to China, the likelihood of getting arrested is very low. However, before the recent pandemic, only about three thousand Americans travelled to China each year. That means that the chances of you getting arrested while abroad are close to zero.
However, with the recent announcement by a few member states imposing travel restrictions to certain Chinese cities, even American tourists could get into trouble. In fact, some of these countries have been particularly harsh in their stance towards foreign travellers entering and leaving China. Some of them have even issued travel advisories against visiting certain cities in China. For example, on 25 July the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China issued a travel advisory saying that all citizens travelling to Shanghai or nearby cities should cancel their trip, as there is “a high risk of collision between ships”.
This led to a lot of Americans travelling to Shanghai who had already paid many airlines tickets, and were unable to cancel their trips. Indeed, on the same day that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released this travel advisory, US officials released a travel advisory saying that they would be traveling to Shanghai. The US State Department has not issued any travel advisories relating to Chongqing or Guilin since those cities were not among the areas that had been imposed with travel restrictions. It seems that the authorities in those two cities have not learned from the recent incident. In addition to advising their American colleagues to stay away from those two cities, the State Department emphasised that all travellers should exercise due care when crossing the borders.
Earlier this month, another travel advisory was released advising travellers travelling to south Korea that they should avoid the DMZ. The DMZ is a no-go zone that contains no trade whatsoever. It is demarcated by a concrete barrier that runs for several miles between the Chinese mainland and the Korean peninsula. North Korea does not recognise the border, and does not allow foreign travellers to enter its territory. Recently, however, it was discovered that China had imposed a fresh entry ban on some US citizens who had previously been allowed to enter China. Although the State Department did not release any explanation as to why the ban had been imposed, it was widely speculated that the new entry ban was implemented as a result of the latest row between the US and North Korea.
On February 1st, it was announced that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had imposed a travel advisory saying that all passengers travelling to China from January 1st to February 14th should check in using one of China’s state-owned airports. Previously, it had been found that most domestic flights from the US into Beijing had already been booked, and that the vast majority of passengers who were travelling from the US to China were now en route to Pakistan or other countries in central Asia. The new travel advisory, meanwhile, meant that all flights from the US into Beijing would be temporarily suspended. This new move came as a surprise to US officials, who had not been expecting such a drastic reaction from China.
Although it was not immediately apparent why the Chinese authorities had imposed travel restrictions on flights to China, it is believed that the reason may be related to the ongoing dispute between the two countries over the islands that are located in what is now known as China. The islands, called the Diaoyu in China and the Kunlunshan in Japan, are disputed between the two countries. The Chinese government has long wanted to have control of these islands, which it regards as rightfully belongs to it. The Japanese government has bristled at this, and has refused to accept a Chinese proposal to share control of the islands with it. This has left the Chinese government feeling isolated, and increasingly worried about possible turbulence in trade relations with the US.
In reaction to the US travel ban on Chinese citizens, the Chinese government announced on April 12 that it would enforce the ban on all travelers originating from the US. According to Chinese state media, the new policy would affect all foreigners who intend to travel to China from the US. Foreigners already traveling to China will be unable to enter the country. A few US companies, however, have reportedly implemented the new ban, and will now be allowed to operate within China.
There are a number of travel agencies and companies that specialize in offering services to foreigners travelling to China, especially those going out of the country for business purposes. It is important for them to be aware of the many details of the Chinese judicial system, especially the local laws that restrict foreigners from leaving china. Most importantly, however, they need to ensure that their clients are well informed of the Chinese customs and practices before they set off for their trip, especially when transiting China.