China to Resume Approvals for Culture and Tourism Exchange Groups with Foreign Countries
On April 1, 2023, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism will resume reviewing and approving cultural and tourism exchange programs with foreign countries. As the decision is anticipated to stimulate the economy and facilitate international collaboration, we discuss its effects on several industries.
On March 27, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced on its official website the resumption of examination and approval of culture and tourism exchange groups with foreign countries.
According to the announcement, starting April 1, 2023, local culture and tourism departments at all levels will gradually resume the examination and approval of culture and tourism exchange group applications, both inbound and outbound.
This is another positive step towards revitalizing the country’s culture and tourism sectors, which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Relevant parties who plan to come to China for cultural and tourism exchange programs can now apply for relevant approvals from the relevant departments. However, the Ministry has also emphasized local governments should still pay attention to COVID-19 prevention according to the Class B infectious disease management protocol.
In this article, we explain the policy adjustment’s approval and potential impact on the cultural and tourism sector.
What do approvals for groups of culture and tourism exchange with foreign countries refer to?
In the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s official announcement, there is no further explanation on what “approvals for culture and tourism exchange groups with foreign countries” refer to.
But by reviewing the use of the term—“culture and tourism exchange with foreign countries”—in official documents released by local culture and tourism departments, we can have a general idea of their potential scope.
For example, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism lists the below items as “cultural exchange with foreign countries”
- Carry out cultural and artistic performance activities abroad (non-profit)
- Carry out cultural and artistic performance activities abroad (for profit)
- Carry out cultural and artistic exhibitions abroad (non-profit)
- Carry out cultural and artistic exhibitions abroad (for profit)
- Cultural and artistic performance activities in China (non-profit)
- Cultural and artistic performance activities in China (for profit)
- Cultural and art professionals visiting abroad
- Cultural and art professionals visiting China
- Hold international cultural conferences in China
- Hold international cultural conferences abroad
- Hold an international art festival on culture within China
- Hold international cultural arts festivals abroad
- Hold cultural international art competitions in China
- Hold international art competitions in cultural fields abroad
- Hold international cultural exhibitions in China
- Hold international cultural exhibitions abroad
- Other international cultural activities will be held in China
- Hold other international cultural activities abroad
- Attend international cultural events abroad
- Attend international cultural events in China
- Join international cultural and artistic organizations
- Withdraw from international cultural and artistic organizations
- Provide/receive cultural assistance and cultural donations
- Negotiate and sign cultural and artistic cooperation agreements
- Foreign embassies and consulates in China held a summary of cultural activities outside the
It is reasonable to speculate that the application of exchange groups involved in these activities would fall under the scope of approvals for groups of foreign culture and tourism exchange with foreign countries.
For example, suppose a foreign cultural and artistic performance group (or individual) intends to enter China for commercial performance. In that case, the performance organization shall apply with the cultural administrative department in the place where the first performance is performed. The cultural administrative department shall decide within 20 days from the date of receiving the application following the Regulations on the Administration of Commercial Performances and its Implementation rules. In case of approval, a document of approval shall be issued, indicating “foreign-related commercial performance”. Where a foreign cultural performance group or individual intends to enter China for commercial performance and stays in China for no more than 90 days, the competent department for cultural affairs shall issue a work certificate for it.
Upon the policy adjustment, we assume approvals such as the work certificate mentioned in the above example for foreign cultural and artistic performance groups will also resume being issued.
As to “tourism exchange with foreign countries”, we assume it refers to inbound and outbound tour groups. We’ll closely follow up with future interpretations from relevant government stakeholders.
Impact on China’s culture and tourism market
China has a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant tourism industry, and resuming the approval of foreign cultural and tourism exchange groups will undoubtedly boost the country’s economy. Foreign visitors can explore China’s diverse cultural landscapes, visit historical sites, and engage in various cultural activities, providing an opportunity to experience China’s unique culture directly.
Moreover, this move will also help promote international exchanges and cooperation between China and other countries, leading to mutual benefits and development. It will provide a platform for cultural and tourism enterprises to showcase their products and services and enhance their international reputation and competitiveness.
As per 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, China intends to enhance its soft power by fostering the growth of its domestic cultural industry. Such proposals have laid out a timeline for establishing China as a dominant cultural force, which includes more rigorous expectations for international cultural exchanges and the introduction of innovative approaches to stimulate multi-tiered conversations with other nations. This is illustrated during events, such as the ‘Year of China’ initiative, hosted in several countries including France, Russia, Italy, and the United States.
Overall, the resumption of cultural group exchanges presents an opportunity to foster stronger ties between countries on multiple fronts, including at the business-to-business level and mutual, people-to-people understanding.
Importance for China’s economic recovery
China’s tourism and culture sector plays a vital role in the country’s economic recovery, as it encompasses a range of industries, such as food, accommodation, transportation, travel, shopping, and entertainment. The development of this sector can drive growth and create jobs, particularly among the youth, helping to mitigate unemployment.
As China shifts from “zero-COVID” to “living with COVID,” the country has lifted several travel restrictions to encourage international arrivals.
- On March 15, 2023, China resumed accepting visa applications for tourism and medical treatment, including the validity of multi-year multiple entry visas issued before March 28, 2020, benefitting foreigners with 10-year business or tourist visas.
- Additionally, several visa-exemption policies, such as those for Hainan, Shanghai cruises, Guangdong visits from Hong Kong and Macao, and ASEAN tour groups to Guilin and Guangxi, have resumed operation.
- On March 20, 2023, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced the resumption of applications for commercial performances, allowing foreign entertainers and cultural performers to perform in China for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
- Starting from March 31, 2023, travel agencies and online tourism companies across the country are once again allowed to operate inbound group tours and “air ticket + hotel” businesses for foreigners.
To support economic growth, we anticipate China will release more policies aimed at expanding domestic consumption and increasing business confidence, including measures related to the tourism and culture sector.
China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner firms assisting foreign investors in The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.
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