Travelers walk through Beijing Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China on Tuesday August 25, 2020.
Yan Cong | Bloomberg | Getty Images
China is making it easier for foreigners vaccinated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines to enter the country after closing its borders to international travel more than a year ago due to Covid-19.
Several Chinese embassies around the world – including those in the US, UK, India, Israel and the Philippines – posted notices on Monday setting out how foreigners can apply for visas to enter China.
However, the instructions only apply to those who have been fully vaccinated with China-made Covid-19 vaccines and have the vaccination certificate to prove it.
People with a valid residence permit can enter China without a new visa. Those without Chinese vaccines can also apply for visas, but need stronger reasons or specific documents to meet the requirements.
Vaccine nationalism is a possibility that cannot be ruled out in the absence of further explanations.
Chong Ja Ian
Associate Professor of Political Science
Chong Ja Ian, Associate Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, discussed possible reasons for China’s move.
“Vaccine nationalism is a possibility that cannot be ruled out in the absence of further explanations,” he told CNBC in an email.
Chong also said some observers suggest that this is a way for China to get more use and recognition of its vaccines, or to get countries to approve their vaccines faster.
China has developed five vaccines, and 34 countries have approved at least one Chinese vaccine, according to CNBC’s calculations based on a Covid-19 vaccine tracking site.
For comparison, the Pfizer BioNTech shot was approved in 72 countries, while the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was approved in 74 countries.
Chinese vaccines have met with some skepticism as information is less readily available compared to that of Western pharmaceutical companies.
Covid-19 was first reported in China in the city of Wuhan before it spread to the rest of the world. The coronavirus is mostly under control in China right now, but the country’s borders have remained largely closed to foreigners.
Notices were worded differently from each embassy, but in general, foreigners from certain countries who have been fully vaccinated with Chinese vaccines require fewer documents to apply for a visa. You are also allowed into the country for more reasons – although tourism is not one of them.
For example, the Chinese Embassy in the UK said those who apply for business will no longer need to submit invitation letters from provincial governments or ministries of commerce. Those without a Chinese vaccine still need to produce a letter of invitation to apply, based on the visa requirements announced in November.
China also expanded the scope of those eligible to apply for a humanitarian visa. Those from the UK who wish to travel to the country to reunite with the family can apply now once they have taken the Chinese recordings.
Without the Chinese vaccine, UK foreigners can only apply for entry if a family member is in critical condition and in need of care, or if they have funeral affairs to do in China.
The country’s quarantine measures of up to 21 days will continue to apply if relevant and negative Covid tests have to be presented. Applicants should wait 14 days after receiving a China-made vaccine before applying for a visa to enter China.