On March 14, 2022, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian confirmed China will be allowing a small number of students into China, following by more “gradually” being allowed to return.
Previously this month, as other countries with formerly-strict entry bans such as Japan and Australia revealed their opening plans for students, China stood alone in its restrictions. The positive statement by Zhao is the first time a high-level Chinese government spokesperson confirmed that students will be allowed to return. It is a positive sign in the question of when the Chinese border will open for students.
At the March 14 press conference, Zhao announced, “Amid the complicated and severe COVID-19 situation, the Chinese government attaches high importance to the issue of foreign students returning to China to pursue their studies. On the basis of ensuring safety, it is coordinating arrangement for a small number of foreign students with actual needs to return to China in light of the changing international epidemic situation and the characteristics of the students’ majors. The students concerned must strictly comply with China’s epidemic prevention protocols.
“As the tsunami of Omicron variant continues to rage across the world, China has taken reasonable and necessary prevention and control measures aimed at protecting the health and safety of Chinese citizens, foreign nationals in China as well as a small number of international students coming to China. We will consider in a coordinated manner the matter of foreign students returning to their classes in China, actively explore feasible options and gradually arrange for those with the need to return in an orderly fashion.”
What does this mean for students?
- It is the first time the issue of students return is concretely confirmed by the Chinese government side. This indicates a high degree of confidence and coordination of a plan to return students.
- Students will return based on the requirements of their majors. Zhao did not specify which majors will be first, but we predict majors such as Medicine, Surgery, Nursing, or other fields requiring in-person clinical work to graduate could be among the first.
- Health and safety are first priority. Zhao said: “The students concerned must strictly comply with China’s epidemic prevention protocols.”
- More opening is likely to come. Zhao said: “We will…actively explore feasible options and gradually arrange for those with the need to return in an orderly fashion.”
What we still don’t know
Although this high-level confirmation is an extremely positive sign, we still do not have specifics of the plan. The universities, majors, degree levels, and countries that will be first to enter China are unknown, as are the dates that the students will be able to enter.
Additionally, China is facing a wave of Omicron cases in major cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. It is unclear how this spike in domestic cases will affect students’ return to China.
The announcement does make one thing clear: the opening plan will be coordinated by the needs of students’ majors and will occur gradually. Students will likely receive the notice of return through their universities. We urge students to remain in contact with their university and program administrators and check their school email accounts regularly.
For more information, you can visit our Covid Tracker–we regularly update all information on when students can go to China in one page on China Admissions.