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China expands mutual visa cooperation with 23 countries, including Maldives, to boost tourism

China has announced a “comprehensive mutual visa cooperation” agreement with 23 countries, aiming to enhance tourism and facilitate freer international travel for its citizens. Beijing is actively pursuing visa-free or liberalized visa procedures with various nations to counter the decline in international tourist numbers to China and encourage Chinese citizens to travel abroad more freely.

Wang Wenbin, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, highlighted the continuous expansion of China’s “visa-free circle of friends.” China has already established mutual visa exemption agreements with 157 countries, simplified visa procedures with 44 countries, and comprehensive mutual visa cooperation with 23 countries, including Thailand, Singapore, the Maldives, and the United Arab Emirates.

This move holds significance for the Maldives, as its President, Mohamed Muizzu, seeks to attract more Chinese tourists to the Indian Ocean island. Despite diplomatic tensions with India, a major tourism market for the Maldives, Muizzu emphasized the need to boost Chinese tourist numbers.

In 2023, India remained the largest tourist market for the Maldives, with official figures revealing that the country received over 1.74 lakh tourists by January 28. Russia, Italy, China, and the UK followed in the tourist chart. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China held the top spot with over 2.80 lakh tourists.

China’s efforts to expand visa cooperation aim to revive its domestic and foreign tourism, which has been impacted by strict lockdown policies and economic slowdown. The measures also contribute to making it more convenient for Chinese citizens to travel abroad and enhance the attractiveness of Chinese passports internationally.

More than 60 countries and regions currently offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival convenience to Chinese citizens, contributing to increased global mobility and international cooperation.

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