China update
China is prepared to resume two-way travel with Singapore, said a minister. Source: Wang Zhao/AFP

A Chinese ministers’ announcement that China is prepared to resume travel with Singapore and facilitate Singaporean students’ return to the country has sparked hope that students of other nationalities will soon follow. In the latest China update, Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a Facebook post:

“On the basis of effective COVID control, China is prepared to gradually resume two-way travel with Singapore and provide facilitation for Singaporean students to return to China for study. We hope our two sides will work together for the effective implementation of RCEP, and promote regional economic integration of a higher level.”

He did not say when Singaporean students could start returning. 

Mixed-reactions from China update

Twitter users expressed mixed reactions to the announcement. One user, Ramin Noorzai, said: “Hopefully it bring a good news for other countries too.” Another Twitter user, SomeoneGGG, tweeted: “This is OFFICIAL people. It’s HUGE. Hopefully the rest follow.”

Some have remained sceptical by the announcement. Md Shohel Rana said, “Previously they promised with many countries but not happened yet. Its just camouflage.” Ahmed2022 said, “The first sentence is enough to tell that, there is no hope this gonna happen any time soon. Gradually means it could take years.”

In a China update in December, it was reported that Malaysian students could return to China soon to resume their studies. Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah was quoted saying by online portal FMT that priority will be given to final-year students and those who need to use laboratory facilities for fields of study involving research that cannot be done remotely.

He was speaking after an inaugural meeting of the Malaysia-China High-Level Committee on the post-COVID-19 cooperation which was co-chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. 

Abdullah had reportedly told Malaysian media on Dec. 4, 2022: “Wang Yi informed me that Malaysia was among the highest on the list of countries with students in China. He did not say when (students could start returning), but from what he told me, they want (the process to begin) as soon as possible.”

China update: What we know so far about China’s stance on its borders

In a separate China update, the country will reportedly not adjust its zero-COVID-19 policy for the time being. China’s CDC chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou told the Global Times that as long as China has no new measures to prevent the imported strains of COVID-19 from triggering large-scale transmissions, the country will not adjust its dynamic zero-tolerance policy for now.

Chinese policymakers and epidemiologists still consider its zero-tolerance policy the best way to reduce the bad outcome of a “reckless reopening”, said the report.

“We previously thought COVID-19 could be basically contained through vaccines, but now it seems that there’s no simple method to control it except with comprehensive measures, although vaccines are the most important weapon in curbing the epidemic, including Omicron,” Wu was quoted saying.