Belgium is one of the latest countries that could soon benefit from current drives to recover China’s flagging tourist numbers post-Covid-19 and to further strengthen its position and standing on the world stage. China continues to pursue its so-called “belt and road” strategy of overarching international economic engagement.
High level talks
Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister, Hadja Lahbib, has followed up last week’s bilateral talks during a diplomatic mission to China, with an announcement on Friday that Belgium could soon be included in the expanding list of nations to which China is granting visa exemptions.
She was in China alongside Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and met with Chinese officials, her Chinese counterpart Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Diplomacy and deal-making
Wang Yi replaced Qin Gang, a former heavyweight up-and-comer in the Chinese political scene who was mysteriously ousted from his role last summer and later reported to have had a child with a US citizen in an extra marital affair. An investigation is said to be under way into whether the affair involved any security breaches.
Since then, Wang Yi has wasted no time, with a busy international schedule of diplomacy and reciprocal deal-making, seeking to “to facilitate the high-quality development of Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges and high-level opening up to the outside world,” according to a previous briefing by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.
“Deeper personal, cultural, and economic relations”
As previously reported by Travel Tomorrow, five other European nations (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain), plus Malaysia, were granted 15-days visa-free access to China from 1 December 2023. The new rules, allowing a fortnight’s worth of visa exemptions for travel for “business, tourism, family visit and transit purposes”, were introduced on a trial basis, to be reviewed after a year.
At the time, Germany’s ambassador to Beijing, Patricia Flor, hailed the move and the “unprecedented” ease with which Germans would now be able to travel to China. Using social media site X, she called on China to “implement the measures announced today for all EU member states. This would be an important improvement of our citizens’ mobility, enabling deeper personal, cultural, and economic relations between China and the EU.”
Now, in what Lahbib has declared would be a “significant step forward”, Belgium looks about set to confirm its membership “of this family of countries that are already benefiting from this.”