CHINA / DIPLOMACY
GT on the spot: China-Vietnam border sees influx of travelers on port reopening day; residents welcome each other with flowers, hopes
Published: Jan 08, 2023 06:41 PM
Travelers from Vietnam cross the border bridge and bring flowers along to greet their loved ones on January 8. Photo: Fan Wei/GT

Travelers from Vietnam cross the border bridge and bring flowers along to greet their loved ones on January 8. Photo: Fan Wei/GT


The cross-border bridge connecting China and Vietnam has seen bustling with inbound and outbound travelers and vendors pouring into and out of the two neighboring countries via the Hekou Port to resume normal business or trade after China reopened its borders on Sunday, when the country downgraded its COVID-19 management from Class A to Class B. 

Having awaited this for almost three years, border residents from both countries crossed China-Vietnam Nanxi River Bridge on early Sunday morning to celebrate the full resumption of cross-border traffic. Some travelers brought flowers along to greet and hug their loved ones from the other side in person for the first time since 2020 when the port closed due to the impact of COVID-19.

The Global Times learned from authority in the Hekou port that the port was open from 8 am to 11 pm. As of 10am on Sunday, it has seen a total of 300 inbound and outbound visitors. It is estimated that 1000 visitors will cross the border on the first day of resumed services.

In a warm gesture, Chinese customs officers prepared gifts for the first batch of arrivals from Vietnam to welcome them to China while many residents hailed the reopening along the street of the border county.

Travelers crossing the border bring flowers along to greet their loved ones from the other side of the border. Photo: Fan Wei/GT

Travelers crossing the border bring flowers along to greet their loved ones from the other side of the border. Photo: Fan Wei/GT


The Hekou Port is the largest port in Southwest China’s Yunnan section of the China-Vietnam border, with the average number of inbound and outbound passengers reaching 124,000 visitors per day before the epidemic. Booming border trade, tourism, and frequent movements have long been a landmark local feature, though this has put the border town under great pressure over the last three years.

The fervor in anticipation of resumption of exchanges reached its peak on Sunday, as a group of passengers eagerly lined up at customs checkpoints early morning with their ID cards in hand, while many other local residents in Hekou county gathered near the portal to witness the historic moment, while others waved Chinese and Vietnamese flags in celebration.

Such joy and expectation was not only reflected on travelers’ faces, but also expressed through fireworks to celebrate reopening in the border town on the eve of the much anticipated move, which expanded people's hopes for restored prosperity.

The Global Times reporters on the spot observed that no more nucleic acid testing was required at the Hekou portal. Passengers only need to register their arrival on their phone and show a pass code at customs. Reporters noted that nearly 50 inbound passengers from Vietnam arrived in just two hours on Sunday’s morning.

Thrilled to be among the first batch enjoying the new adjustment to border crossing, a traveler from Vietnam surnamed Nguyen told the Global Times that she has been looking forward to the day for a long time, and now can finally have the opportunity to return to China to continue her Yunnan wood carving business.

In addition to expectations to the resumption of a booming market, many also anticipate the reopening to bring about the reunification of family and friends.
Bai Yongyin, a woman from Yunnan's Bouyei ethnic group, plans a trip to Vietnam via the Hekou Port on January 8, 2023 wearing dazzling ethnic costume, and shows her crossing permits. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

Bai Yongyin, a woman from Yunnan's Bouyei ethnic group, plans a trip to Vietnam via the Hekou Port on January 8, 2023 wearing dazzling ethnic costume, and shows her crossing permits. Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT


Bai Yongyin, a woman from Yunnan's Bouyei ethnic group, walked joyfully through the Vietnam customs gate in her dazzling ethnic costume, grinning and waving her crossing permits to the Global Times reporters. 

"The Bouyei people are widely dispersed in both Southwest China and North Vietnam, so I have many relatives and friends who I haven’t seen in the last three years. I’ve dreamed of this moment, and now I can't wait to enjoy Vietnamese food with my friends."

On Sunday morning, the Hekou county government officially launched a ceremony to mark the resumption of cross-border tourism between China and Vietnam, hailing that the smooth reopening reflects the common wishes and efforts of both the Chinese and Vietnamese governments.

“We have been maintaining close and effective communication with Vietnam’s relevant departments to settle details of reopening, such as making sure customs facilities work well for smooth crossing. Vietnam has also provided great support and cooperation, and has been strengthening efforts to encourage its border residents to restore connectivity with China,” Yang Huijianxiong, the chief officer at the Hekou Port, told the Global Times on Sunday.

It will take some time for the port to recover to its pre-epidemic passenger flow along with the economies of border towns equally affected by COVID closures. But the resumption of cross-border personnel exchanges is of great benefit to the border people of China and Vietnam, which will further open the door of Chinese border towns to ASEAN members and drive the economic development of Yunnan Province, said Yang.

China and ASEAN are current each other's largest trading partner, and Vietnam is China's largest trading partner among the ten ASEAN members. The two sides are highly complementary in economy and trade, and this close cooperative relationship has driven the huge demand for port reopening. The reopening of border ports is conducive to Vietnam to better utilize its foreign trade policy, Xu Ningning, executive president of the China-ASEAN Business Council, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Meanwhile, the expert noted that it is a good follow-up move after General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to China in October 2022, in which the two countries agreed to consolidate the traditional friendship, strengthen strategic communication, enhance political mutual trust, and properly manage differences, so as to push the China-Vietnam comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in the new era to a new level.