Is This The End Of Visiting China, Even After Coronavirus?

I’m fortunate to have had great visits to China over the years, seeing major tourist sites and experiencing amazing meals. There have been a few inconveniences along the way, but it’s easy to circumvent China’s Great Firewall and in recent years I’ve just assumed that any electronic device I bring with me has been compromised. On the other hand there isn’t anyone necessarily interested in spying on me (“security through obscurity”).

I wonder if, even when coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted, it’ll be the end of advisability of visiting China. A few years ago one nationally-prominent journalist told me he wouldn’t connect in China. Air China first class award space was readily available for a trip he was working on, but he wouldn’t take it. That makes some sense for a journalist, I think, especially one that has covered pro-democracy protests around the world. But what about the rest of us?

China has made clear they may detain Americans in retaliation for the U.S. prosecuting Chinese scholars. (HT: Marginal Revolution)

Chinese government officials are warning their American counterparts they may detain U.S. nationals in China in response to the Justice Department’s prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars, according to people familiar with the matter.

…The Chinese message, the people said, has been blunt: The U.S. should drop prosecutions of the Chinese scholars in American courts, or Americans in China might find themselves in violation of Chinese law.

Some of U.S. conflict with China may be unique to a Trump administration. The same protectionism may not extend to whomever is President next, whether in 3 months or 4 years. However the underlying forces on the Chinese side aren’t likely to change and may even accelerate as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks a third term at the Twentieth Party Congress in late 2022.

In other words, China may not just press its strength against Hong Kong and the Uighurs and clash with Indian troops in the Himalayas, but might behave more aggressively towards Taiwan. The next U.S. administration might be more conventional and feel more tied to act in Taiwan’s defense than the current one. It’s not clear that U.S. – China conflict will end any time soon, and in the meantime it’s ratcheting up such as China’s suggestion it could shoot down civilian aircraft because U.S. spy planes are misidentifying themselves.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Good point. Anecdotally, my highly-qualified, just graduated American daughter with an MA in Education, English, and Writing has been–past tense–besieged with offers to teach in China. Now, in the past 2-3 months, she has received 0. She thought it might be due to Covid restrictions, but she has learned that others, from such countries as Brazil and Russia (!) are receiving offers to teach the same subjects. Also, she has commented that several referral sites have excluded US passport holders from applying.

    Don’t know how true this is, but I was at IKEA area days ago and noticed a definite lack of inventory. Asked a couple of employees about it and was told no, the lack of inventory is not due to Covid, but China prioritizing shipments to the “friendlier EU”.

  2. As a Canadian, nope. Both because they are holding Canadians in retaliation for legal action, and I don’t feel like visiting a county actively engaged in genocide.

  3. you and your readers shouldnt go. if you do go, you are going to use either award, cheap deal with upgrade or deeply discount premium deal. it is not good for people who need to go on the cheap. save the deals for others.

    if you have to pay full fare, you will have to travel with in a business trip which is essential.
    I am in HK and I am being oppressed every single day with all the covid restrictions as we had 1 local transmission case today. it is very scary and not safe in HK.

  4. Does anyone know if the risk of detention/harassment is different for US citizens (traveling on a US passport) who immigrated from PRC?

  5. It’s stupid artificers like this that create a false pretense that things won’t return. I hate these articles, they aren’t real nor are they reasonable.

  6. China has been detaining Americans for years. This is nothing new. Primarily they are Americans who were originally from China or who have family members the Chinese government are trying to get at. This article smacks of fear mongering. I don’t see the average American tourist being seized by the Chinese government. I do think if Trump gets reelected either he will sell out Taiwan to the Chinese or get us entangled in a massive war. With his actions he has pushed the region soo much closer to war. All Trump has left to do is claim Taiwan should be its own country and Beijing will attack and I doubt Trump would lift a finger to protect Taiwan in the end. Unhinged people should not be in charge of US diplomacy for this very reason.

  7. “Some of U.S. conflict with China may be unique to a Trump administration. The same protectionism may not extend to whomever is President next…” Indeed, Anthony Bobulinski has confirmed Biden “The Big Guy” has better relationships with the Chinese. Trouble is “The Great Fire Wall of Twitter” has been trying to suppress this great news about a closer relationship with China. If Anthony Bobulinski is credible, and this old auditor and fraud examiner is leaning in that direction giving mounting evidence concerning transacting business in China, Biden is at best a liar and at worst corrupt (FCPA? and/or ML?).

  8. @SE_Rob yes, having the prior connection to PRC does increase the risk of a problem. Check the US state department postings on the subject. Its not random though. Its normally people who get in business disputes and corrupt officials take the side of chinese businesses to detain people for leverage or if they are trying to get at dissident family members of the person who is travelling the government may seize them to make those other people come back so they can silence them etc, so they don’t just randomly target people but they will use the fact that someone has that connection to the PRC to detain them if they think there is a benefit they would derive from doing so.

  9. We unnecessarily woke a sleeping giant. Now we have three super powers. You couldn’t pay me first class in the best hotel to fly to China. I’ll never understand why we call it trade? The Chinese never had anything we needed.

  10. Bill, I guess you didn’t get the memo on trump being nominated for THREE noble piece awards ( nominations come from foreign countries, not US. ) also first president in 40 years to not jump into another $$$ foreign war.. Soo much for being unhinged.

  11. @joanie adams:
    You’re simply wrong. Chinese companies produce 40% of the world’s Spandex.

    Of course, given the typical Spandex wearer, I’d applaud a ban on imports as it’s supposed to be used to show off a svelte figure, not hold in mounds of fat.

  12. @AL: I guess you didn’t get the memo on grammar or spelling. Noble piece of what?
    OK, Trump hasn’t started a war. Big whoop. He’s only responsible for more deaths of Americans than any war since the Civil War. Another term and he’ll be working on exceeding the estimated 750,000 who died in that war.
    Check your health insurance premium at the next renewal.

    Best reason to vote for Biden: He’s not Trump.
    Good enough for me.

  13. For some context this report by the Department of Defense on the Chinese ambitions for global military domination is worth reading:

    https://media.defense.gov/2020/Sep/01/2002488689/-1/-1/1/2020-DOD-CHINA-MILITARY-POWER-REPORT-FINAL.PDF

    Among other things it says: “What is certain is that the Chinese Communist Party has a strategic end state that it is working towards, which if achieved and its accompanying military modernization left unaddressed, will have serious implications for U.S. national interests and the security of the international rules-based order.”

    In the minds of many Chinese citizens the United States is now the enemy of China. That does not bode well for US citizens who choose to spend time in China. The odds of falling afoul of the Chinese government is still quite low but rising. However, if you are connected or appear to be connected to any organization that opposes Chinese interests you will have a target on your back.

  14. Lived and worked in China for 3 years. I won’t be going back for awhile; the Chinese government engages in hostage diplomacy which is too risky given my industry stature. The Chinese government has propagandized anti-American attitudes so it’s not friendly in China like before. It’s unfortunate because I like Chinese people, food and culture a lot. But I won’t visit North Korea right now for the sake reasons of taking hostages. If Beijing does the same as Pyongyang, visiting China is not safe.

  15. Transiting countries where having Amnesty International material along may mean trouble is always a warning sign. China, India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia come to mind as large countries where such material can mean trouble during and even after trips. They all are also countries that have a nasty habit of engaging in cross-border crimes to install spyware or other problematic software/files.

  16. I suggest Vietnam as a better long-term alternative to counting on manufacturing and other sourcing from China.

    China is a growing threat to the world; and it’s even a threat to the people over which it claims dominion. We need not only a stronger NATO, we need it’s equivalent — let’s call it APTO — to deal with the threats posed by China.

  17. The single dumbest thing I’ve ever read on this blog, which I have generally enjoyed for as long as I can remember.

  18. Trump’s family has been in bed with China during the Trump Administration. Remember how Trump’s son-in-law had his sister in on using their real estate business to sell access to US visas and US residency via E classification visas.

    This was news in 2017 and it is just the tip of the iceberg for what the Trump-Kushner crime family has been doing:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-a-beijing-ballroom-kushner-family-flogs-500000-investor-visa-to-wealthy-chinese/2017/05/06/cf711e53-eb49-4f9a-8dea-3cd836fcf287_story.html

  19. @joanie adams

    You’re right. The U.S. and the western world should have never opened up trade with China in the 70s. It only empowered its massive growth and development. Politicians pushed for excessive regulations, high taxes, and unions made it difficult for companies to be profitable so they went to China. It’s foolish to empower those who are ideological enemies and can harm us. This is nothing new. All the technological advancement of the 17,18, and 1900s should have been strictly kept within the western world; the people who developed it. Westerners traded our advanced technology whether steel, weapons, or computers for rice, tea, or oil (when we had our own reserves).

    I think the last 2 years has made clear that China is a no go. The Chinese significantly changed their tune with Hong Kong. I don’t need to visit the Great Wall or the polluted cities with fake copies of western buildings.

    China is right about releasing those in the U.S. They are only doing what their country asks them to do. The U.S. does the same (but not to the same degree as we are the tech innovators) with spying, including on U.S. citizens. Political forces and bureaucrats are responsible for letting the Chinese into the U.S. and into our universities in the first place. We don’t need international students, especially Chinese or Iranian, in graduate schools and in technology firms. They should never have been allowed to work here in the first place. Let those held to, ban them from coming back, and rescind all work visas and investigate those already issued citizenship.

  20. I never have and never will step foot in China. I was born in HK under British rule but my parents grew up in mainland China and fled from the Communist and during the time my father was in China, he suffered immensely from the evil wicked Communist party and during those brutal years he starved with just one loaf of bread per MONTH. Some of my inlaws died during those terrible times. We left HK before HK was reverted back to China rule. Thankfully my father indoctrinated me to never go to China and I’ll never will.

  21. China canceled the American carriers slots a few days ago. This didn’t make the news but crews are being evacuated now. Down to one slot a day per carrier from my understanding.

    The Chinese carriers are still flying multiple flights a day into the US.

  22. @abuser

    “Best reason to vote for Biden: He’s not Trump.”

    So you are OK with pedo Joe and his pervert son making millions by selling out the American people to china, Ukraine, etc. You are OK with pedo Joe pawing and sniffing little girls. You can ignore the fact that pedo Joe has been credibly accused of rape. And try to forget about that laptop. But are you also ok with pedo Joe showering with his daughter? Are you ok with pedo Joe jr snorting coke off the rearend of underage girls? Or is your head buried somewhere so you can ignore (for now) the massive amount of corruption of the Biden crime family?

    https://bigleaguepolitics.com/chinese-billionaire-dissident-leaking-hunter-biden-emails-says-theyll-be-10000-more-pictures-after-sex-tape/

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