China relaxes border restrictions for those who received China-made vaccines

Travelers walk through Beijing Daxing International Airport in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.

Yan Cong | Bloomberg | Getty Images

China is making it easier for foreigners who have been inoculated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines to enter the country, after shutting its borders for international travel more than a year ago due to Covid-19.

Multiple Chinese embassies around the world — including those in the United States, United Kingdom, India, Israel and the Philippines — issued notices on Monday outlining how foreigners can go about applying for visas to enter China.

But the instructions only apply to those who have been fully vaccinated using Covid-19 vaccines made in China and have the vaccination certificate to prove it.

To be clear, people with valid residence permits can enter China without new visas. Those without Chinese vaccines can also apply for visas, but they will need stronger reasons or specific documents in order to meet the requirements.

Vaccine nationalism is a possibility that cannot be ruled out given the absence of further explanation.

Chong Ja Ian

Associate professor of political science

Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, weighed in on possible reasons for China’s move.

“Vaccine nationalism is a possibility that cannot be ruled out given the absence of further explanation,” he told CNBC in an email.

Chong also said some observers suggest this is a way for China to get more usage and recognition of its vaccines or get countries to approve their vaccines more quickly.

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 has been approved by 72 countries, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved in 74 countries.

Chinese vaccines have been met with some skepticism as information is less readily available compared to those produced by western pharmaceutical companies.

Covid-19 was first reported in the China, in the city of Wuhan, before it spread to the rest of the world. The coronavirus is mostly under control in China now, but the country’s borders have remained largely closed to foreigners.

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