Visa-free stays offer opportunity to experience real China, debunk Western misinformation
Published: Jun 30, 2024 06:19 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Starting from Monday, tourists from Australia, New Zealand and Poland will be eligible for visa-free stays in China for up to 15 days.

China wants more people to come and see the country for themselves and see that people-to-people exchanges are good for business, good for the economy, and good for relationships between countries and lasting personal friendships across cultures. However, there's one more incredibly positive aspect of visiting China which is an intangible one. Everyone that visits China decide that they haven't seen enough and want to come back for more, and starting this year, that's going to be a lot easier. Before Australia, New Zealand and Poland, China had already added six European countries and Malaysia to a list of countries whose citizens are able to travel visa free to the Chinese mainland.

Although a 15-day stay is a little short for such a diverse country, the policy will definitely be long enough for a tour and a taste of the many great things China has to offer. Australian and New Zealand travelers can follow the sunshine, during the summer holidays, during their winter. If they prefer, they can come during the winter holidays, during their summer, China has great ski resorts in the north and northwest and great beaches in the south. If someone asks: what time is a good time to visit? The answer is anytime is a good time. When they ask which part of China should we see? The answer is always: all of it. But you're going to need a lot more time than just 15 days to do that. Diversity is China's strength, fortunately, the 15-day visa entries have no limit, visitors can come back as often as they want.

Australians and New Zealanders are renowned for their global travels, they can be found in all corners of the world. Young backpackers flock out when schools break up in the southern summer, middle-aged tourists travel all throughout the year and even many retirees make their homes in exotic locations throughout Indonesia and Southeast Asia. All of these people can now take a short trip to China and see for themselves what a great country it is and what they've been missing. 

But here's some bad news: According to the Lowy Institute, many Australians see China as a threat. There is no evidence of any threat whatsoever. This is just a massive media campaign by Australian media, which has vilified China in such a way that the opinions held by many people there are false. 

Here's where they got it wrong: when Australian media said that Chinese people were buying homes, land and businesses, the truth was, China owned less than 2 percent of all foreign owned assets. When Australian media said that China was restricting Australian trade, the real reasons were never given - even the Trade Minister Don Farrell admitted there was, and still is, a biosecurity issue with lobsters. For the record, it's cadmium and the Department of Fisheries knows all about it, but media won't tell us that as it would damage the reputation of the Australian industry. Andrew Wilkie MP took a report to Parliament proving that China was right to stop the imports of Australian coal because the exports were of the wrong type of coal, the coal was "dirtier" than it should have been. 

The list goes on, every negative item in Australian news has a reasonable explanation, but Australian people are misinformed because their media hasn't been telling the real story. Something else Australian media neglected to tell their audience was that their economy relies on, and can't survive without, China. But the media was constantly suggesting China was hurting Australia through trade restrictions, the actual situation was that China was buying more products and resources from Australia and trade has consistently grown over the years since well before the pandemic. 

Now, the good news is that Australians can come to China and see for themselves. They can talk to and interact with Chinese people who will welcome them, as they do with all foreign visitors. It gets even better because, the 15-day visa free visit is just the first step, if they want to come here for a longer stay, they can get a 5-year multiple entry visa too, that's a bilateral arrangement. 

There's a small problem for Australians who take the time to visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Website for any travel alerts. Unfortunately, there's a message there that Australians should exercise caution as they "may be at risk of arbitrary detention." As an Australian living in China for two decades with many other Australian friends here, I can assure all Australians that this is not true. There has never, in the history of foreign visits to China, been a report of anyone being arbitrarily arrested. This simply doesn't happen.

If this travel alert concerns you, don't be concerned, unless you happen to come here for the purpose of espionage, then you can ignore the department's travel alert; spies will be arrested in every country in the world, China is no exception. If you aren't a spy though, you won't be treated like one.

Tourists that come here to see China for themselves will very quickly realize that, like me, they have been misinformed. Once that happens, there's no going back. China will entice, enthrall and capture the hearts of all.

The author is a British Australian freelance writer who has studied cross cultural change management in China and has lived in the country, traveling extensively for almost two decades. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn