Jan 9, 2023 - World

China opens borders after three years closed off from world

A tearful reunion in Shenzhen. Photo: Chen Chuhong/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

China this weekend opened its borders to the world after three years — a major step for the country’s 1.4 billion people and for the global economy.

Driving the news: As of Sunday, travelers can now enter China without any quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19. Chinese tourists, who spent more than $250 billion overseas in 2019 and have left a huge gap in global tourism ever since, will also now be free to travel the world — though some countries are requiring negative tests due to the huge spike in cases.

  • Thailand’s ministers of transport, tourism and public health all traveled to Bangkok’s airport Monday to welcome Chinese travelers.
  • In Beijing, there were long lines outside immigration offices as people waited to renew their passports, per Reuters.
  • The strict border restrictions had been particularly keenly felt in Hong Kong, which is heavily economically reliant on mainland China. Tens of thousands of travelers flowed in both directions on Sunday, many of them to visit family.

What to watch: "China’s reopening will be the biggest economic event of 2023," the Economist predicts. While China's rebound should power global growth, it will also likely drive up energy prices and make it more difficult for Europe to compete for LNG supplies.

In related news…

  • Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, the outgoing ambassador to Washington, set off on a five-country trip to Africa immediately after taking office. That’s become the custom for new foreign ministers in a signal of the continent's importance to Beijing.
  • Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who had become the face of confrontational "wolf warrior" diplomacy, has been shifted to a low-profile bureaucratic post in another possible signal that Beijing is seeking to soften its global image.
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