According to German media DW, Chinese streets are gradually becoming empty of expatriates. Most are leaving for the same reason, scared of life under an onerous zero- COVID environment.

“When are you leaving” has become the most common question when foreigners in China meet up. The outlet estimates that the number of international businesses and experts stationed in China has decreased to less than half of what it was before 2020. 

In August, a German Chamber of Commerce (AHK) survey concluded that one-quarter (25.4%) of foreign workers had departed China since 2019. Because of China’s zero-COVID policy, just under a quarter of German enterprises (22.4%) expect a decrease in employees from overseas.

Under China’s pandemic approaches, the health code has become a life center. Citizens cannot go into stores, eat in restaurants, or occasionally even enter the neighborhood to go home without a negative nucleic acid test result that is valid for 72 hours.

A whole community can be restrained simply over a single detection of a COVID case, and people dread the possibility of any sudden isolation or lockdown. 

DW reports that on a Saturday morning when it used to be busy, there were only three or five patrons at a bar that expatriates frequented for its home-brewed beer, hamburgers, and pizza. In the past, foreigners lived in the area, but it is now completely empty. 

According to the Financial Times, in 2021, mainland Chinese residents’ journeys into or out of China fell 79% from the previous year. The percentage of foreign nationals dropped even more dramatically to just 4.6% of the 2019 level.

The pandemic restrictions are also driving foreign investment away from China. Traveling in and out of the country has become more challenging due to border controls and quarantine protocols.

AmCham president Michael Hart told CNBC in May, “If you want investment you have to allow for travel. Two, three, four years from now, I predict a massive decline in investment in China because no new projects are being teed up, because people can’t come in and look at space.”

Besides the uncompromising pandemic rules, DW notes that China’s international image is deteriorating over other issues such as geopolitical tensions, world decoupling, human rights abuses, Hong Kong repression, and Taiwan.

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