China Relaxes “Zero COVID” Policy, Making Study Abroad Less Challenging for Students

By Joanna Chi-Hsin Kang

April 17, 2023

Up until January, the Chinese government’s “Zero COVID” policy was a major hurdle for foreign students who planned to study in China. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 500,000 foreign students studied in China annually at 1,000 college-level institutions because of the relatively inexpensive tuition and generous scholarships.

During the pandemic, students who entered China for study had to comply with its zero-tolerance strategy to quarantine for at least three to five weeks or more, depending on individual cases. In addition, foreign students had to cover the high cost of airfare, take daily or weekly COVID-19 tests, and manage the possible lockdown of their residence if the local municipal authorities determined that it was a necessary measure to control the spread.

This deterred foreign students from studying in China over the last three years. As a result, several European institutions shifted the location of their study abroad programs from China to Singapore, the United States, and other countries that practiced less rigid quarantine policies.  

On January 8, the Chinese government announced that it would loosen its harsh COVID-19 policies. China would fully open its borders for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020, making it easier for foreigners to acquire visas for business and study.

This new shift poses great opportunities for study abroad programs at American universities, in general, as China steps back onto the global stage for potential collaborations in the fields of commerce, science, and academia. More cultural exchanges between the US and China higher education institutions would promote mutual understandings and bridge the path of communication for future generations.

Joanna Chi-Hsin Kang, International Student Advisor/Designated School Official, is responsible for facilitating compliance with federal regulations that govern the immigration status of international students and scholars at St. John’s University and enhance their experience in the US.