March 05, 2023

Tourists from China Return To Russia


Tourists from China Return To Russia
Chinese tourists on Red Square.

RIA Novosti, a Russian state-controlled news agency, expressed enthusiasm about the arrival in Russia of the first group of tourists from China since the pandemic started, advertising the group's positive experience. The timing of the article, March 2, is not coincidental. Just days earlier the U.S. Department of Defense urged China not to sell weapons to Russia.

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine, sanctions, boycotts, and Russia's closed-offed-ness have made it a less-than-ideal tourist destination. According to Kommersant, international tourism to Russia shrunk by 90% over 2022. But now the Russian tourism industry sees a new horizon with tourists from China.

Yet the excitement around travelers from China isn't just about boosting Russia's tourism economy, but also strengthening a political alliance. Moscow depends on Beijing economically and geopolitically, but the response has not been precisely what the Kremlin wanted. The Wilson Center describes China's approach to the war in Ukraine as "a careful balancing act" and "distance diplomacy," avoiding openly supporting Russia while simultaneously opposing UN sanctions

Meanwhile, all the stops have been pulled to accommodate China's incoming tourists. Tourist agency Nika received the first group of tourists in late February. Businesses evaded Visa and Mastercard's sanctions by accepting WeChat Pay, which is dominant in China. And direct flights from Moscow to Shanghai and Beijing are being negotiated.

RIA's article ended by advocating for the removal of visas: "A system needs to be rectified so [Chinese citizens] can return without a visa." 

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