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US will begin suspending Chinese airline flights


US will begin suspending Chinese airline flights

The US will begin suspending Chinese airline flights today. Photo: Reuters

From today until March 29, the US will suspend 44 flights for four Chinese airlines.

The action comes in response to similar suspensions from China. Beijing has slashed the total number of incoming international flights to just 200 per week—roughly 2% of pre-pandemic levels.

These tit-for-tat flight cancellations are partially attempts to keep COVID-19 out of the country in the lead-up to the Beijing winter Olympics. China is one of the few remaining countries to employ a strict COVID-zero elimination strategy. However, there is an element of geopolitics involved – affected countries are predominantly those that have fallen foul of Beijing in recent months. This includes Lithuania, for recognizing Taiwan, and the US, which is leading diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Games over Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur population.

Whether these Sino-American flight suspensions are lifted after the Olympics depends on whether China lowers or ends its own suspensions by March 29. This is uncertain, as Beijing is unlikely to relinquish its COVID-Zero strategy in the near-future. In this context, flight suspensions remain weapons in both countries’ diplomatic toolkits, which could be employed as bargaining chips to assuage future spats.

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