Medical epidemiological considerations.
Covid in China is right now a fast-moving, unclear, situation. Trust in what the government is officially saying is limited.
There are reports of hospitals filling up with patients and a growing demand for funeral services.
But officially, China is reporting relatively low numbers of Covid cases and a tiny number of deaths.
Each suddenly sick traveller in a host country will stress that country's hospital staff and facilities, with, perhaps, a later recovery of those costs.
Variants are a part of that calculation too - they are likely to arise elsewhere, but the sudden inflection point in the Chinese covid procedures, coupled with the large population and a propensity to travel might make it somewhat more of a risk - (maybe? I am not all that convinced myself at the extra risk but have little to base that on) - more time to see how it plays out may bring some clarity.
Given some time, it is possible some of these restrictions will be revisited, even if the core Chinese situation doesn't change, just because there is a better understanding of what the sudden relaxation means. For now, China's covid situation is a bit of an unknown loose cannon.
A key reason that many countries are imposing Covid checks on travellers from China is the lack of surveillance data coming out of the country. The more Covid that is circulating, the more chance there is for the virus to mutate.
But new variants can pop up anywhere - the UK, Brazil, South Africa and India have all been the likely origins of previous variants of concern.
What goes around comes around
China has for the last 3 years been extremely, extremely, restrictive in its own procedures for admitting foreign visitors.
Air travel remains the main way of entering the country but international flights to the country are limited. In March 2020, China restricted both foreign and Chinese carriers to just one weekly international passenger flight per airline.
What are the restrictions?
As of May 20, travelers from the United States and Canada no longer have to take a PCR test seven days before flying to China.
However, some restrictions are still in place. These travelers are still required to take two PCR tests 24-48 hours before going to China (depending on their departure airport) and a pre-flight antigen test.
For the newly qualified entrants, entry depends on having received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines at least 14 days prior to entry. They must apply for a visa in advance, and show their proof of vaccination on arrival, as well as the negative tests.
Arrivals are screened once more at the airport. Those failing the checks will be sent to government facilities. Some provinces require additional quarantine upon arrival.
Would-be travelers must be careful as flights can be canceled at the last minute.
You can do all sorts of searches - China was very, very, bossy and restrictive. Yes, being so may very have been necessary because of their zero-covid medical approach, but it was still very restrictive.
It is not uncommon for countries to engage in tit-for-tat behavior when it comes to visas and other travel restrictions. There is a bit of an element of time differences making that unusual in this case: at times China may have had more of a good reason to be more restrictive. And, yes, Western countries have covid more under control right now, thus less reasons for restrictions.
Yet, the general point stands: the amount of restrictions on Chinese travelers in the midst of an outbreak of unknown severity in China is minimal compared to what China maintained on foreign visitors - coming from countries with stabilized, known, covid situations - until very recently.
Having to be tested? My heart bleeds.
China bashing is a vote-winner in many countries.
Let's not kid ourselves. China is not the most popular country in many of the countries imposing restrictions. We can come up with all the epidemiological reasons we want but let's not lose track of that simple fact.