US lobby fears ‘exodus’ of foreign staff in China due to COVID measures

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People wait at a bus stop in Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD)

SHENZHEN, China – American businesses are struggling to persuade overseas staff to join them in China due to the country’s strict COVID-19 control measures and ongoing lockdowns, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said on Monday.

In a survey of 121 members, 49% said foreign workers are either significantly less likely to – or are refusing to – move to China because of COVID-related policies, with 82% singling out uncertainty over how long quarantine and lockdown times will last as the main reason.

“We are bracing for a mass exodus of foreign talent this summer, with fewer employees overseas willing to take up open positions here in China,” said chamber chairman Colm Rafferty.

International flights into China remain extremely limited and subject to short-notice cancellations, with passengers needing approval from overseas Chinese embassies before boarding, and most arrivals requiring three weeks of quarantine.

“We understand China choosing to prioritize health and safety above all else, but the current measures are throttling US business confidence in China,” Rafferty said.

Overseas business groups continue to chafe against the COVID controls that have seen most of the 25 million population of Shanghai in lockdown for over a month, with curbs also tightening in the capital Beijing. [L2N2X102N]

The survey found that 51% of respondents have either delayed or decreased investments as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with 58% having decreased their revenue projections for the year.

Last week a European Chamber of Commerce in China survey found that almost a quarter of respondents were considering moving current or planned investments out of China, more than double the number at the start of the year. [L2N2WX0DG]

(Reporting by David Kirton; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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