Media Archives from People’s Daily and Official Data  (1949—2020)

Analysis of media big data shows policies concerning foreigners fall into six main categories:
1- China's Gradual Opening-up
2- Visa Developments and Tourism
3- Foreign Investment and Business
4- Marriage and Family Life
5- Cultural Exchange
6- Incentives and infractions

1. China's Gradual Opening-up

In 1982, the first 29 cities in China opened to foreigners. To date, cities in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have been opened. According to the Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People's Republic of China, foreigners who hold valid visas or residence permits can travel to these areas without applying for travel documents.

1986: 7 categories of Chinese visa introduced
2004: Permanent Residency for Foreigners implemented

2013: Visa categories expanded from 8 to 12, with F-visa for visitors, L-visa for tourists, J-visa for journalists and Q-visa for overseas Chinese visiting relatives in China.

2016: Regulations for permanent residency in China were revised and 1,576 foreigners were granted permanent residency, a 163% increase from 2015.

2. Visa Developments and Tourism

1978: Over 100,000 foreign tourists visited China.
1985: Tibetan Plateau opened to foreign tourists.
1994: Shennongjia National Nature Reserve opened to foreigners.

2000: The State Council approved a 15-day visa-free policy for tourists from 21 countries.
2017: China received over 139 million tourists, making it the fourth most popular destination in the world.
2018: Tourists from 59 countries were granted 30-day visa-free access to Hainan Province.

2012: Air passengers from 45 countries and regions with a visa and an onward flight to a third country were eligible for a 72-hour visa-free transit in Beijing and Shanghai.

2019: 1.8 million visitors took advantage of the new 144-hour visa-free transit.

51% of the foreigners visiting China in 2018 aged 25-44. Those aged 15-24 in 2018 were 9 times more than in 1999.

33% of inbound visits in 2018 were for sightseeing & leisure, 15% were foreigners working in China and 12% for meetings or business. From 2001 – 2018, the number of foreigners working in China rose by almost 6 times.

The total number of foreigners visiting China has gone up by more than 5 times in the past 20 years, from 8.43 million in 1999 to 47.95 million in 2018.

Over the past 20 years, China’s inbound tourists almost doubled. Outbound tourists shot up almost 18 times in the same period. In 2017, there were more outbound tourists than inbound for the first time.

The foreign-exchange earnings from international tourism in China increased 9 times between 1999 and 2018, compared with an 18-fold increase in earnings from domestic tourism.

3. Foreign Investment and Business

1979: The Law of the PRC on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures facilitated foreign investment in China. It offered preferential taxes and simplified the application for business permits.

Foreign investment grew steadily, concentrated in eastern coastal areas’ small- and medium-sized manufacturing.

After 1992, the Income Tax Law for Enterprises was introduced and preferential taxes for foreign investors were revoked. Foreign investors began to focus on quality, prompting industrial structure upgrades, infrastructure construction and new high-tech projects.

Systematic protection of intellectual property came into force to safeguard the rights of foreign enterprises in China, including the Patent Law and the Regulations on Protection of the Right of Communication through Information Network.

2018: 950,000 foreign companies invested in China, with the investment exceeding 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars.

2019: Foreign Investment Law was enacted as China’s first comprehensive and systematic law in this area. It marked a new stage of regulation-based opening up.

4. Marriage and Family Life

Provisions for Registration of Marriages between Chinese Citizens and Foreigners was approved in 1983.

2003: The revised Regulations on Marriage Registration were promulgated which simplified the process for marriage registration. Approval from employer and a health-check certificate are no longer required while services such as online appointments are provided.

In 2003, over 8.11 million couples registered to get married in China, among them 78,000 involving foreigners, overseas Chinese and residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

In 2012, Measures for the Registration of Marriages between Border Inhabitants of China and Neighboring Countries were introduced.

In 2013, 13.41 million Chinese couples and 55,000 couples involving foreigners, overseas Chinese and residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan registered to get married in China.
There were 10.13 million registered marriages in China in 2018, of which 480,000 involved residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and foreign nationals.

The Adoption Law of the PRC (1992), Inheritance Law (1985, 2015), Regulation on the Administration of Medical Institutions (1994) and Administrative Provisions on Religious Activities of Foreigners (1990) contained measures for foreigners in those areas.

5. Cultural Exchange

Cultural exchange comprises education, culture, health, sports and entertainment.
Provisions on the Administration Foreign Affairs in 2001 marked a new stage of development in cultural exchange.

The growing number and the diversity of imported copyrights signify the development of Chinese policies to foster international cultural exchange projects from different countries.

Suggestions on Strengthening and Improving Cultural Exchanges between China and Foreign Countries (2017) became the pivotal set of guidelines for consolidating Sino-foreign relations. China and countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have held cultural year, art festivals, cultural exhibitions and book shows.

Over the past decade, China’s imported copyrights averaged 17,151 per year, with the U.S., UK, Japan, South Korea and France among the top 5. The introduction of the BRI saw cultural exchanges and collaboration bloom in China.

China had 18,201 foreign students in 2001, but the number increased to 163,835 in 2018, with an average annual growth of 13.80%.

The promulgation of the Outline of Education Reform and Development of China (2010) and Study Abroad in China overhauled the admission and management of foreign students in China. China remained the top destination for overseas study in Asia in 2019.

Between 2001 and 2018, the cumulative number of foreign graduates in China reached 1,232,164, with an average annual increase of 13.84%.

6. Incentives and infractions

12 new policies were launched in 2019 to support outstanding foreign youth, students and interns to set up innovative businesses while enhancing management. The Chinese government established in 1991 the Friendship Award to recognize the contribution of foreigners to the country’s modernization and economic reform. About 1,699 individuals from over 40 countries have been presented with the award.

Talents are drawn to China by scholarships that ensure foreigners can further develop their careers. Foreigners are encouraged to actively take part in China’s development, as the country builds an internationally competitive talent-based immigration system.

Articles from People’s Daily on the administrative policies for international immigration highlighted 5 illegal activities.

1. Disrupting public order
2. Illegal entry, residence and employment
3. Financial crime
4. Endangering national security
5. Selling cultural artefacts

Anyone who violates the law and regulations shall be treated equally.

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