Passport Index has released its Global Passport Power Rank for 2017. In first place, Germany, with visa-free or visa on arrival access to 158 countries around the world. Tied for 134th place, China, with 57 countries.
The Chinese passport is as powerful as passports from Ghana, Uganda and Mongolia, in other words not very powerful at all. Along with the 22 countries that Chinese passport holders can enter visa-free, there are an additional 35 countries where they can receive a visa upon arrival. The vast majority of these countries are located in Africa, along with Asia and Latin America. To visit anywhere in Europe or North America, Chinese citizens need visas.
Still, the lack of their passport’s power hasn’t stopped Chinese tourists from leading the world in outbound travel, bringing their cash and embarrassing antics with them around the globe in mass. In recent years, countries have been trying harder and harder to attract deep-pocketed and abundant Chinese travelers with more lenient visa policies. For instance, last year Australia began handing out 10-year tourist visas to Chinese passport holders.
And this Spring Festival, 6 million Chinese tourists are set to travel abroad, spending some $14.3 billion (100 billion yuan) in the process, with Thailand as their top destination. To help facilitate the annual rush south, Thailand hands out 15-day visas-upon-arrival to Chinese visitors.
However, not everyone is such a fan of seeing Chinese passports. They’ve even been known to hold the “power” to piss people off. Last July, a Vietnamese customs officer allegedly wrote “Fuck You” on a Chinese woman’s passport with the scribbled words conspicuously placed over the nine-dash line on a map of China on one of its pages.
Of course, visa policies often go both ways and China is less than welcoming to foreign travelers in this regard. Passport-holders of only 12 countries are allowed visa-free entry into the Middle Kingdom — this includes a hodgepodge of nations including Japan, Singapore, Serbia and Brunei.
For comparison’s sake, Hong Kong passport-holders can enter 140 countries without a visa and Taiwan passport-holders can enter 119. However, Taiwanese can sometimes find that things get a bit more tricky upon arrival.
Last year, a Taiwanese woman living in Iceland wanted her nationality to be listed as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese” on her residence permit. After a long fight, she settled for being classified as “stateless.” The year before, a Taiwanese tourist was rejected entry into the United Nations Office at Geneva after presenting her ROC passport.
So, when it comes to “power” are Chinese citizens really so far behind the pack? After all, they don’t even need their passports to visit North Korea for half a day.
Matt Bonini contributed to this story
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