China has announced visa-free entry for citizens of five European countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain) and Malaysia.
The visa-free entry program is a trial and will be in effect for one year, allowing citizens of the mentioned countries to stay in China for up to 15 days without a visa.
The initiative aims to encourage more people to visit China for both business and tourism, facilitating high-quality development of Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges.
The visa-free entry program comes after nearly three years of strict pandemic measures, including quarantines for all arrivals, which had discouraged international travel to China.
Japan, Singapore, and Brunei were previously allowed visa-free entry to China, but the program was suspended after the COVID-19 outbreak. China has resumed visa-free entry for Brunei and Singapore but has not done so for Japan.
In the first six months of the year, China recorded 8.4 million entries and exits by foreigners, compared to 977 million in 2019 before the pandemic.
France has welcomed the move, and in return, has decided to allow Chinese students earning master's degrees in France to stay in the country for five more years to facilitate exchanges.
The EU Chamber of Commerce in China expresses hope that more European nations will be granted visa-free access, considering it a tangible and practical improvement that will increase business confidence.
The Chinese government's decision aligns with its efforts to attract foreign investment and boost the economy. However, foreign tourists are still relatively rare compared to pre-pandemic levels.
This is a significant decrease compared to 977 million in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year, as reported by the Associated Press.