Beijing is actively discouraging its 11 million Chinese diaspora from coming home, telling them that it would mean long delays in their studies and jobs overseas. And it’s no longer sending chartered flights to get citizens home, an about-turn from an earlier policy that saw it bring plane loads of Chinese back from Iran and Japan.
The new approach also runs counter to that taken by countries like Singapore, Australia and Canada, which have urged their citizens working and studying overseas to come home.
After bringing its epidemic under control through draconian measures that quarantined a region of 60 million people and caused a historic economic contraction, China
is now fearful of a second peak as the pandemic accelerates overseas. Over 81,000 people have been infected and over 3,200 have died in China
since the virus was first reported last December.
“Students may face long-term delay in their study or work if they return to China, as the outbreak may well last one or two years,” said Zhang Wenhong, a Shanghai-based Chinese epidemiologist, in an online chat with overseas Chinese students organised by the Chinese embassy in Dusseldorf, Germany, on March 17. Zhang also told them that younger people have a lower chance of becoming seriously ill after contracting the virus.