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《China Daily》:(王颖)Visa-free policy helps promote global exchanges

发布时间: 2024年06月18日 编辑: 王峥

(China Daily 2024-06-18)

6月18日,对外经济贸易大学国家对外开放研究院常务副院长王颖就“免签政策促进国际交流”话题接受China Daily(中国日报)采访。

Spanish businessman Jesus Perez Aguilar arrived in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, in late January for an 11-day business trip, a journey that also took him to Shenzhen and Changsha, Hunan province.

Aguilar's frequent trips to China have been propelled by a 2018 agreement, signed during President Xi Jinping's visit to Spain, that allowed the European country to export bone-in ham to China.

Over the years, Aguilar has become a familiar face in China promoting Iberian ham. In 2023 alone, he visited China four times, staying more than 90 days in the country.

The January trip, however, stood out due to a new and convenient measure: a unilateral 15-day visa-free entry policy granted to ordinary passport holders from several European countries, including Spain, as well as Malaysia. This policy, on a trial basis and initially set to expire at the end of the year, has been extended to the end of 2025. It now applies to 14 countries, with Australia and New Zealand recently included.

"These kinds of small conveniences help a lot in promoting commercial exchanges between countries," said Aguilar, who works for the Interprofessional Iberian Pork Association, which is headquartered in Zafra in southern Spain.

In a written speech delivered at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in San Francisco in November, Xi reiterated Beijing's commitment to make it easier for foreign expatriates to live and work in China.

"We will also take more 'heartwarming' measures, such as improving the policies on entry and stay of foreign nationals in China and removing for them choke points in financial, medical, e-payment and other services," he told the global business community.

During the Central Economic Work Conference in December, China's top leadership decided to remove more barriers to facilitate business, study and travel in China for foreigners. Since then, central as well as local governments have introduced a series of measures to meet the diverse needs of foreign visitors and expatriates.

Broader agenda

As China has pursued a more proactive strategy of opening-up since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, observers said these measures exemplify China's efforts to advance a broader agenda of opening-up across more areas and in greater depth.

Matteo Giovannini, an Italian who has lived in China for nearly 11 years and has witnessed such efforts, highly rated the quality of his life in China, considering aspects such as affordability, safety and cultural richness.

Giovannini said the digitalization of government services is one aspect he has found particularly beneficial for foreigners. "It has made it easier for residents to access public services, pay bills and complete administrative tasks online," he said.

He said that initially, it was challenging for him to adapt to life in China, as English was not widely available on public transportation and in restaurants when he arrived in 2013 in Dalian, Liaoning province.

It would be even better if the availability of translation and interpretation services, especially in critical areas like healthcare, legal services and government offices, can be further increased, he said.

Now being deeply immersed in China's culture and traditions and the Chinese language, Giovannini said he does not see himself living somewhere else for the foreseeable future. He was granted permanent residence status in 2022.

"The fact that China enjoys political stability with a predictable living environment is something that cannot be underestimated nowadays," he added.

Wang Ying, a researcher at the Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics' Academy of China Open Economy Studies, said that through the facilitation measures, the Chinese government is showing a welcoming attitude toward foreign visitors as well as expatriates in China.

"We can see that the adopted measures are targeted at existing bottlenecks and obstacles, with the purpose of creating a better environment for them to work and live in China in the long run," she said.

As convenience improves, more and more foreigners, including businesspeople, will be willing to come to travel, work and live in China. "This will help boost economic, trade, as well as cultural exchanges between China and other countries, thus deepening cooperation and mutual understanding," Wang said.

Aguilar, the Spaniard, said he has full confidence in the Chinese economy and will deepen his involvement in the Chinese market with a planned visit in September.

He said that in the last five years, sales of Spanish cured ham to China increased more than 104 percent, with an annual growth of 28.5 million euros ($30.52 million). Now China has become Spain's second-largest destination for such products outside the European Union.

"China is a very large country with so many cities of interest to visit and work in," he said, adding that he hopes the 15-day period of the visa-free policy could be extended a few more days to facilitate his stay.

Wang from UIBE said," Efforts to improve the quality of life for foreign citizens in China will also help to establish an objective understanding of China and enhance their sense of belonging toward China by showcasing the openness, inclusiveness and friendliness of China as a major country."

Getting a true picture

For many foreign visitors who have never been to China, an in-person visit will enable them to get a true picture of how the country looks today after decades of reform and opening-up, Wang said.

In the first quarter of this year, foreign nationals made four times more trips in and out of China, data from the National Immigration Administration showed. During this period, the administration issued around 466,000 visa documents for foreign nationals and granted over 1.98 million foreign travelers visa-free entry, up 118.8 percent and 266.1 percent, respectively.

Videos shared by foreign tourists on video platforms about their firsthand travel experiences in China have been going viral recently.

In a video titled "Shocked by this crazy city in China" that received 545,000 views, the You-Tube user "JetLag Warriors" experienced the transportation and accommodations services, tasted local food and visited tourist attractions in Chongqing.

A viewer with the username "dr_emmz" said in a comment under the video that, "I can't believe you guys made me smile the whole day.… China is the best country, lots of places to explore, lots of food, lots of cultures, it's almost unreal, and this is not what the media shows us, I'm actually coming to China for my vacation this year, so excited".

Miao Lu, secretary-general of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, said that with efforts to facilitate cross-border travel and high-standard opening-up, China is leading globalization against a rising trend of anti-globalization and implementing the Global Development Initiative and other major initiatives proposed by China.

"By doing so, China is telling the rest of the world that its commitment to expanding opening-up is not just lip service," she said.



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