The citizens of these six countries can now enter China with ordinary passports without a visa and stay for a period of 15 days for business purposes, sightseeing, or even for visiting one’s family and friends
China in an effort to build the country’s development and open up the economy announced on Friday the decision to introduce a one-year visa-free policy to citizens from six European countries. Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and the Netherlands starting from December 1, 2023, will not require a visa to visit the world’s second most populous country. The announcement was made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.
The citizens of these six countries can now enter with ordinary passports without a visa and stay for a period of 15 days for business purposes, sightseeing, or even for visiting one’s family and friends.
Patricia Floe, Germany’s ambassador to China on social media announced the German diplomatic missions in China’s embrace of the decision to offer German citizens a visa-free stay of up to 15 days in China from December.
The Chinese tourism market has had an uneven recovery this year according to reports, but outbound tourism on the other hand is improving remarkably. The inbound tourism sector only recovered to 12 percent of the same period of 2019 in the first half of 2023, according to the data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Around 20 million inbound tourists visited China in 2022, which was nearly 14 percent of the annual volume in 2019.
The country had extended its visa-free transit policy to mainly include citizens from Norway for a 72/144-hour stay during mid-November, making the total number of applicable countries to 54. The country also ruled out a mandatory 48-hour COVID test requirement for inbound arrivals from August 30. The rules came after China continued 15-day visa-free entry for citizens of Brunei and Singapore in July.
Experts and industry analysts hail the decision as “one of the largest relaxation” in the visa-free program in many years. They also suggest that the decision would help to increase the inflow of “unprecedented foreign tourists and entrepreneurs” to the country which will also assist the recovery of the world’s second-largest economy after being hit drastically by the pandemic. The inbound tourism market is especially expected to benefit from the new rule.
Talking to the Global Times on Friday, Xu Xiaolei, a marketing manager at China’s CYTS Tours Holding Co, mentioned that the program could be one of the largest in decades. Xu Xiaolei also added that it would create a major enhancement to the inbound tourism market. A number of people from the mentioned six European countries are expected to travel to China during the Christmas holidays, a travel peak time, he added. Xu Xiaolei said that people in charge, including the airport authority and travel companies, can prepare for the arrival of more tourists.
Dong Shaopeng, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies’s senior research fellow told the Global Times on Friday that the extension of the visa-free policy is also in line with China’s guarantee to further opening up. “The active move can energize foreign private investment and business visits to China, defying what some foreign media hyped as a ‘foreign capital exodus,'” mentioned Dong. He also stated that new measures could go hand in hand with other policies the government introduced this year to attract foreign investment.
The new policy for the five European countries and Malaysia comes as the bilateral trade relations between China and the European bloc and also the relations between Southeast Asia are improving. The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were ranked as China’s second-largest and largest trading partners as of the first 10 months of 2023.
China plans to improve the policies and regulations concerning the inbound tourism sector and visas, including enhancing Chinese visa application procedures and gradually phasing out visa application appointments.