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China Covid: U.S. Testing Rule Meets a Collective Shrug


Some Chinese were disenchanted by the Biden administration’s latest testing requirement for travelers coming from their country. Others radiated contempt, calling it the newest Western effort to contain China’s rise. But many were simply indifferent.

For a lot of Chinese, the U.S. rule that they need to present negative Covid tests to go to is a tangential development. China is grappling with severe outbreaks which have sickened countless people and overwhelmed hospitals and funeral parlors. Many are focused on attempting to hold on to their jobs and houses because the economy sputters.

And to lots of those that have been considering travel, an additional Covid test shouldn’t be a significant inconvenience. Such testing had until recently been — for a lot of tens of thousands and thousands of residents — a near-daily routine mandated by the authorities. And Chinese tourists know that they’re welcome in lots of places across Asia and beyond.

“It’s only a Covid test before traveling,” said Li Kuan, 33, a software engineer at a technology start-up within the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. “We’ve been doing a bunch of tests like this for the past three years.”

The rule from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced on Wednesday, would require negative tests from anyone, no matter nationality or vaccination status, who desires to board a U.S.-bound flight in China. It is going to apply to travelers in Hong Kong and Macau, in addition to to anyone coming from China who transits in the US or enters it through a 3rd country.

The rule will take effect on Jan. 5, three days before China plans to drop the strict quarantine requirements which have been in place for inbound travelers for nearly three years.

People all over the world are excited in regards to the potential boon for business and tourism that may accompany a surge in Chinese tourists. But some also worry about how cases have exploded within the country since early December, when China abruptly lifted its “zero Covid” policy after mass protests over lockdowns that threatened the ruling Communist Party.

Officials in the US fear that the coronavirus will spread rapidly in China, allowing latest variants to develop and spread all over the world.

On Wednesday, the C.D.C. said that it was requiring a negative Covid test for travelers from China to slow the spread of the virus in the US. As latest variants of the virus emerge all over the world, China’s “reduced” testing and case reporting and “minimal” sharing of epidemiological data could delay their identification, the agency said.

Italy, South Korea and Japan have recently imposed similar travel restrictions, and India now requires negative Covid test results and random screening at airports for passengers arriving from China, including Hong Kong, in addition to from Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

The Communist Party solid aside restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to the Communist leadership.

On Thursday in China, the Communist Party’s predominant propaganda outlets, normally quick to criticize countries that impose restrictions on Chinese travelers, appeared to downplay the U.S. news. The C.D.C. rule itself was barely mentioned on most of the party’s predominant platforms.

Some sites as a substitute highlighted the positive reception China’s easing has been getting in other countries. “China’s latest measures ‘enhance global economic hope,’” read the headline of an article within the Global Times, the Communist Party newspaper.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of diplomacy at Renmin University in Beijing, said that China’s official media might be wary of reporting an excessive amount of on the U.S. restriction out of fear that doing so would draw attention to China’s domestic outbreaks and fuel public anger.

“For those who speak about this an excessive amount of, you’re sure to make mistakes,” he said.

For Beijing, it might be difficult to make the argument that the US mustn’t impose a testing requirement, when China itself still plans to take care of one, even after it eases the foundations. The federal government would require incoming travelers to indicate a negative polymerase chain response, or P.C.R., test inside 48 hours before departure.

At a routine news briefing in Beijing on Thursday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, did in a roundabout way address the Biden administration’s move. He repeated talking points Beijing has used previously week as some countries began imposing limits on Chinese travelers, saying that those pandemic measures must be “scientific and appropriate.”

But this time, he made a pointed reference to the query of discrimination, saying that such measures must also “treat residents of all countries equally.”

Some Chinese residents shrugged off the U.S. testing requirement, calling it a minor inconvenience for a population that has grown accustomed to near-constant P.C.R. testing throughout the pandemic.

China’s Covid-era testing requirements for international travelers have been “far more complicated” than what the US is now requiring of travelers from the country, said Wang Xiaofei, 29, who works for a technology company within the southern megacity of Shenzhen.

“It’s what it’s,” she said of the testing policy, adding that she would still travel to the US if she had the chance. “Just cooperate.”

Others were less accommodating.

Iris Su, 22, a university student in Latest York City, said that her parents, who live within the eastern city of Qingdao, had been pondering of visiting her after the weeklong Lunar Latest Yr holiday in late January. “Now they aren’t so sure,” she said. “They’re a bit unhappy with the U.S. restrictions.”

Ms. Su said she saw the C.D.C. rule as a political move, not a scientific one. “Ultimately, that is all confrontation between great powers,” she added.

Several epidemiologists said on Thursday that the brand new U.S. policy can be ineffective, based on evidence from other places — including Hong Kong, a Chinese territory, where a raft of testing requirements for incoming travelers earlier this 12 months failed to forestall a pointy rise within the variety of imported cases.

Karen Grépin, a worldwide health policy expert on the University of Hong Kong, said that while the C.D.C.’s latest rule may prevent superspreader conditions on airplanes, it could not stop latest variants — just as earlier bans on international travel did little or no to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

“What we should always really be doing now as a worldwide community is interested by learn how to support the Chinese people through this transition, not shutting them off,” she said.

It was unclear on Thursday how or whether the brand new C.D.C. rule would affect China’s delicate relationship with the US. When President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s powerful leader, met in Indonesia last month, they appeared longing for a soft reset of a relationship that had been careening toward confrontation. Yet the connection stays stuck at its lowest point in years amid disagreements over the long run of Taiwan, technology restrictions and China’s mass detentions of its residents, amongst other issues.

Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health on the Council on Foreign Relations in Latest York, described the C.D.C. rule as “epidemiologically unconvincing and diplomatically unjustified.”

“The general reopening must be encouraged,” he said, referring to China’s plan to steadily dismantle its Covid testing infrastructure and travel restrictions. “Now you’re giving Chinese people the impression that you simply’re punishing them.”

Mr. Huang said that he sympathized with international criticism of China’s perceived reluctance to share coronavirus data with other countries. But he also worries that the C.D.C. requirement could also be fodder forChinese nationalists who argue that the US is attempting to contain China’s rise.

That was the tone on Thursday on some pages of the Global Times.

“The Covid outbreak this time tells China that it must recognize a basic fact,” Shen Yi, a professor of international politics at Fudan University in Shanghai, wrote in a column.

“That’s that China’s words, deeds and various policies will face electron microscope-level scrutiny by American and Western public opinion and anti-China politicians,” he wrote. “If there’s a slight flaw, it is going to be infinitely magnified; if a flaw can’t be found, they’d create it artificially.”

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