The number of trips abroad made by Chinese mainland residents in 2017 was estimated at more than 60 million, according to a senior Chinese diplomat in charge of consular affairs.
In addition, the Foreign Ministry and Chinese diplomatic missions overseas worked with various departments on about 70,000 cases regarding consular protection and assistance during the year, Guo Shaochun, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Consular Affairs, said at a news conference on Wednesday in Beijing.
Major cases included evacuating citizens from Hurricane Maria in Dominica, the floods in Nepal and volcano eruptions in Indonesia, Guo said.
The figures were unveiled at a time when China has become the world’s second-largest source of overseas investment.
In 2017, about 1 million Chinese went abroad to work and about 1.37 million Chinese students studied abroad, Guo said.
More than 30,000 enterprises were established overseas by Chinese residents and businesses last year, Guo said.
Huang Rihan, a researcher at the Center for China and Globalization think tank, said it is more urgent than ever to reinforce protection for Chinese interests overseas to address the safety issue of Chinese citizens and Chinese companies investing abroad.
The Foreign Ministry hosts the 12308 hotline, which offers consular protections to Chinese citizens going abroad, Guo said. A smartphone app is being prepared to offer greater access in case critical situations arise overseas.
In addition to helping those whose lawful rights and interests have been infringed upon, China supports countries cracking down on criminal activities conducted by Chinese citizens overseas, such as cases of organized telephone fraud and cross-border internet gambling, Guo said.
“In 2018, we will further reinforce coordination with departments in charge and effectively conduct relevant prevention, control and management,” Guo said.
Speaking on visa facilitation, the diplomat noted that Chinese citizens now can travel visa-free to 65 countries and regions.
China and the United Arab Emirates will reciprocally exempt visas for citizens starting Jan 16.
As the UAE is one of the favorite destinations of Chinese tourists as well as a major international transportation hub, the upcoming visa exemption measure will annually benefit about 1 million Chinese tourists heading to the country and another 3.5 million Chinese travelers stopping over there, Guo said.