Quarantine back to China

Returning to China is an serious challenge

Facing quarantine back to China is only one of the difficult barriers one faces when trying to return, reason I am stuck here since late 2019.
Getting a valid visa is one hurdle, forget visa for tourism or a quick business trip. Lately China has started to show some flexibility but for many it is still very hard.
There are the exhaustive requirements for COVID tests, green code through the China embassy, getting a flight reservation on one of the very few and horribly expensive flights.
Every country of departure has different regulations, in principle one has to go on a direct flight from the country of your nationality. Other flight routes are possible but even more complicated.
For a family with two children, the cost is outrageous, due to the flight tickets and the cost of quarantine on arrival – you pay for the hotel and the food.
Overall conditions and regulations vary and change without warning.

Quarantine conditions vary

Quarantine back to China is mostly beyond control, it depends on the flight and the city you must first stay. If your destination is Beijing you can quarantine in cities like Xian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Xiamen, … rarely in Beijing.
Worse are the hotels. Mostly you have no choice at all, they put you where they want, not you. You can be lucky to stay in a 5-star hotel with nice room service or be locked up in a horrible local no-star hotel with rubbish food and zero room service.

The experience of a European diplomat couple

The couple landed in a local hotel. With little electricity, no WIFI, infested with mosquitos, cockroaches, ants and other insects. The poor couple is having a crash course in Chinese (unidentified) insects. Only one towel for the couple. Window (closed) to the corridor. Bathroom as in 0-star Chinese hotels. Rotten walls and woodwork.

I wish our European countries would force Chinese arriving to go through the same ordeal. European food, no hot water, insects, whatever. Oh well, the EU has no balls to enforce reciprocity.

Outdated “zero-COVID” policies

We are all permanently terrorized by draconian and arbitrary rules. One needs negative test results in the mobile that vary: last 24 or 48 or 72 hours, to the whim of the location. And pray the test result does appear in your mobile.
Worse, totally out of control is the “contact tracing”. The system checks where you go and where you enter by scanning a QR code. Bad luck if a “suspected case” was in that neighborhood, you might end up with alarm pop-ups that block you from going anywhere, you can (in the best case) be locked up in your home for one or two weeks, or worse, you are dragged away to a far-away “quarantine location” for one or two weeks. Good luck.
Several friends have faced consecutive lockdowns and quarantines for many, many weeks.
And forget travel to anywhere. That can end very badly.
In other word, stay away from China. Many expats are now leaving China for good, many being “Old China Hands”.
My American daughter is visiting Belgium. No tests, no masks, all open, all back to normal. Most of her Belgian family had COVID. That was all OK, just like a flu, a few days at home only.
We remain in our “cage”, before it was China, now it is Beijing. Or a District in Beijing.
Right now I was/am in lockdown for reasons I can call unfounded, unscientific, irrational. Who compensates us for all our losses?
The policies here were initially great and successful. Now it has become unsustainable. But the government sticks to it after adapting the wrong strategies in the past year.
And we are not allowed to complain. Hey! We love it here! It’s all great!
All in all it makes us sad. Because we considered Beijing to be our home.

3 thoughts on “Quarantine back to China

  1. Dear Gilbert,

    So sorry you are going through this ordeal. I started following you on LinkedIn when I left China myself in 2014.
    Sonce then your posts have slowly but surely become more critical and lately truly frustrated with how you are treated.

    To me, I got a first whiff of what was to come in 2014 already, noticing how the very welcoming and respectful attitude towards foreigners changed into something of a nationalist and protectionist attitude.

    I decided to leave right away, even though my life was exquisite and very enjoyable in Shanghai. I felt the mood changing with the policy, I’m sure you have too.

    Why am I taking time to tell you this…
    You know it already, but I’ll make it explicit for you; staying in China is not an option anymore. Leave, save your dignity while you still can.
    I mean well, truly.

  2. As an old China hand the whole nationalist drum was starting to make a very uncomfortable sound in 2015 so we left

  3. China basically hates –and is deeply suspicious of–ALL foreigners these days which is so so sad for all of us who once loved living here. As you know, I “escaped” a few months back and have been celebrating ever since! China is “No Country For Non-Chinese” and even the locals are becoming increasingly immersed in the brown stuff………..VERY VERY hard for people like yourself who married and bought property in BJ but you need to take care of your BALLS and MENTAL HEALTH, without which–as you well know– Life has little meaning……

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