Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the remarks at a press conference on July 21 in response to a question about when Indian students will be able to return to the country.
The statement came after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on July 19 that China is ready to resume and increase international flights “in an orderly way”.
Speaking to business leaders at a World Economic Forum dialogue, Keqiang, who is second-in-command to Chinese president Xi Jinping, said that the country was also “steadily improving visa and COVID testing policies” to promote “exchanges and cooperation between China and the world”.
A spokesperson from the China International Student Union told The PIE News that it is “great news that the officials at higher level are making public announcements”.
“We hope that more information can be released about the timelines to expect so students can prepare accordingly”.
“It’s nothing more than a diplomatic statement”
China has so far offered no clear dates for the return of international students, but small groups of students have begun to travel to the country since March this year.
A group of 90 Pakistani students travelled to China last month on a chartered flight, but over 100 eligible students were prevented from returning by high airfares and covid restrictions.
However, the majority of students are still waiting for information about when they can resume their studies in China, with an estimated 23,000 Indian students still waiting to return.
“I think it’s nothing more than a diplomatic statement,” Pakistani student Talha Khan told The PIE. “They haven’t given a specific date or time frame. If they continue in this manner, then we won’t be able to return in even two years. All of this indicates that they are uninterested in calling us back.”
In a recent blog post, China Admissions, which helps international students to enrol at Chinese universities, said it estimates that there are “less than 20,000 international students in China now, less than 5% than before [the pandemic]”.
The organisation said that the future “remains very uncertain” and that “opening up will be extremely gradual, and may take many months or years”.