New visa scheme part of China's opening up

Sun Xi China Plus Published: 2018-01-24 18:25:24
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In January, 2018, the Chinese government issued new regulations to facilitate the issuing of R visas for overseas talent. In the future, foreign experts including top scientists, international entrepreneurs and other talents whose skills are in urgent demand will be allowed to stay in China for up to 180 days at a time, with multiple entries on a visa valid from 5 to 10 years. Their spouse and children can also apply similar visas.

My mentor and Singapore's former foreign minister, George Yeo, has described the policy change as a "tidal shift." That is true. After 40-years of reform and opening-up, China now is becoming more and more open not only to foreign talent but also to all foreigners.

A man shows the first visa to China with validity period of 10 years he got at Chinese Visa Application Service Center in Toronto, Canada, March 9, 2015. [Photo: Xinhua]

A man shows the first visa to China with validity period of 10 years he got at Chinese Visa Application Service Center in Toronto, Canada, March 9, 2015. [Photo: Xinhua]

In 2013, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou started to offer 72-hour visa-free transit. In January, 2016, Shanghai and its neighboring provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu began offering 144-hour visa-free transit. In December 2017, the visa-free transit through Beijing was also doubled to 144 hours, adding its neighboring Tianjin and Hebei Province into the mix as well. In January, 2018, Shenyang and Dalian airports in Liaoning province also adopted the 144-hour visa-free transit.

All this comes as US president Donald Trump curbs immigration, while China welcomes more foreigners. China's "green cards" (permanent residency cards) are becoming more in demand.

In April 2017, Chinese government revamped its permanent residency card scheme to attract more highly skilled foreigners and overseas Chinese. This January, China's Ministry of Public Security extended the valid visa term for foreigners of Chinese origin from the previous one-year period to five years, and the ministry vowed to continuously reform the system for issuing permanent residency cards to foreigners.

On December 5, 1949, the newly established People's Republic of China issued its first visa. Since China decided to open itself to the world in 1978, its door has yet to unclose. Last year, there were 598 million trips made across Chinese border, 4.76 percent increase from 2016, which is around three times as many as there were in 2000, and almost 50 times more than in 1980.

However, China still has considerable room for improvement in terms of attracting, retaining and hosting foreigners.

At the end of 2010, nearly 600,000 foreigners were living on the Chinese mainland, only 0.04 percent of China's total population of nearly 1.4 billion. By 2016, the number increased to around 800,000, 0.06 percent of its total population. The global average ratio is 2.3 percent, the average ratios in developed and developing countries are 10 percent and 1.6 percent respectively, and even relatively conservative Japan and less developed India host 1.9 percent and 0.4 percent foreigners respectively.

From 2004 to 2013, China issued over 7,000 "green cards" in total, with less than 1000 per year. In 2016, the number of "green cards" granted was 1,576, a 163 percent rise from 2015. However, by contrast, the United States, with a population of about 320 million, grants around a million "green cards" every year.

Looking back into Chinese history, openness usually meant creativity and prosperity. The Tang Dynasty is generally regarded as a glorious peak in Chinese civilization and a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Benefiting from the prosperous Silk Road, the capital Chang'an (now Xi'an) with 2 million inhabitants was the most populous city in the world at the time, hosting about 25,000 foreigners (1.25 percent) from Persia, Central Asia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India and many other places.

In comparison, isolationism will only incur ignorance and backwardness. Beginning in the middle of the Ming Dynasty, and progressing through the Qing Dynasty, China closed itself to the outside world. Due to these policies, China was eventually overtaken and humiliated by foreign powers.

At present, China is confidently marching towards its "Chinese Dream," aiming to become a moderately well-off society by 2020, a modern socialist economy by 2035, and a prosperous and strong country by 2050. In the future, the "great renaissance of the Chinese nation" will be fully achieved, and China must be a more open society then.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for all Chinese people, whether at home or abroad, to unite toward achieving the "Chinese Dream." There are over 60 million overseas Chinese living around the world, including foreigners with Chinese ethnicity and Chinese citizens living overseas. Those overseas Chinese are the indispensable part of the "Chinese Dream."

President Xi also reiterated that "The dream of us Chinese is closely connected with the dreams of people of other countries." Therefore, everybody in world can be part of the peaceful, friendly, and inclusive "Chinese Dream", which is also the dream of the whole world.

2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the start of China's reform and opening-up policy. The policy has proven to be the best way for modern China to make progress in its own development. In the future, China will surely continue to deepen the process and become more and more open to the rest of the world.

China welcomes all of you, foreign friends!

(Sun Xi, a China-born alumnus of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, is an independent commentary writer based in Singapore.)

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.