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Outdated “zero-COVID” policies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.