China: Safe to Travel Despite Media Attention

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

In this blog for Goway’s latest trade e-zine, I wanted to focus on China.

Many of our agents have been asking us lately, “Is it still safe for my clients to travel to China now with everything that’s going on?” So I thought, since so many agents are asking, this might be a good time to tackle this topic.

The short answer: Yes.

But the long answer goes something like this. First, I should back up a bit and explain why there’s all this recent media attention on China in the first place for those of you who aren’t following foreign politics too closely. Back in early December 2018, following a request from the American government, Canadian police arrested and detained Meng Wanzhou. Wanzhou is the current CFO of Huawei Technologies Co. Oh, and she just happens to be the daughter of the company’s founder. If you’re unfamiliar with Huawei, well, they are like the Apple of China and the second biggest tech producer in Asia next to Samsung. You can imagine the uproar if the Chinese tried to detain Tim Cook.

To summarize, it’s a big deal. In the US, Huawei is in hot water for allegedly stealing tech breakthroughs from an American telecommunications company. As well, the reason the US wanted Wanzhou detained is that they allege she defrauded financial institutions into circumventing trade restrictions with Iran. Wanzhou is now facing extradition to the US to face formal charges.

As a result, relations between China and Canada have heated up, and it goes without saying that the whole situation will impact US/China relations as well. It’s been a severe game of ego hardball being played by both sides, having much to lose in thwarted trade negotiations.

So that’s the backstory. As a result, the media is giving this a ton of attention and rumours have begun to surface that travel to China could be viewed as dangerous. I’m only assuming that my counterpart, sitting in an office in Beijing, is fielding similar questions concerning the safety of travel to North America.

And the reality is that probably the best time to travel to China is now. Goway sends a lot of travellers to China each month. Even now, when the weather is cold in the northern regions, we have quite a few clients in destination at this very moment. We are getting constant positive feedback including pictures of them on the Great Wall of China, in the local markets, and walking along the Bund in Shanghai. And what has struck me as I scroll through the photos is not just that it appears to be “business as usual,” but that, if anything, there are fewer tourists!

Due to this high-profile diplomatic spat, many people have been scared off of China and chosen to defer their travel plans until things stabilize. But from my point of view, it’s a perfect time to go to avoid crowds.

New Requirements for Visas for China

I do want to point out that both Canadians and Americans require visas for China. Prior to December, both Canadian and American citizens could obtain a visa by visiting the consulate in person, by post, or by a third-party provider. However, post-December, Canadians are now expected to make an in-person visit to one of the offices. There are four Chinese consulates in Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and one embassy in Ottawa. Furthermore, it is now a requirement for Canadians to have fingerprinting done to obtain a visa. This has caused havoc for some travellers who live outside of these core cities.

The fact that this new requirement was implemented around the same time as Meng Wanzhou’s arrest seems purely coincidental. Both Canadian and US immigration have required fingerprinting from Chinese nationals for some time, so this new procedure is likely based more on reciprocity than anything else.

At the time of writing, this is not a requirement for US citizens, but I suspect such a procedure is incoming.

Travel China

For those clients who are still concerned about travelling independently around the country, Goway offers a few small group touring options as well. Choose from either our China Odyssey (11-day or 14-day program—14 day includes the Yangtze River) or our signature 17-day Holiday of a Lifetime trip called the Splendours of China and Tibet.

For a full list of all the touring options Goway has in China, visit www.goway.com.

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