A planned reshaping of rules for foreigners to get permanent residency in China to ease a talent shortage would not seem cause for a public backlash. But timing is everything when it comes to policymaking and, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak , the idea has been met with consternation. Compounding the concern is vaguely written language that gives the impression outsiders will be given preferential or better treatment in obtaining benefits such as welfare. The idea needs to be shelved and revised for reconsideration at a more appropriate time. China has some of the world’s toughest residency rules for newcomers, problematic given the need to attract the best talent for key growth industries. Just 7,356 so-called green cards were issued between 2004 and 2013, compared to 1 million for the United States in 2013 alone. The planned changes would ease application conditions by requiring lower investment amounts, give preference to holders of doctorates, people earning at least three times the average local salary or working in unspecified designated priority sectors, and those who have been living in the country for a certain amount of time. Foreigners recognised as having made an “outstanding contribution to China” or those brought in to work in a “sector of need” could bypass particular requirements. Backlash in China over draft rule on permanent residency for foreigners These are not unusual terms given the stiff global competition for talent. But in the midst of a health crisis, with citizens worried about jobs, income and the threat of foreign businesspeople and tourists returning and possibly importing the coronavirus just as the nation is bringing the pandemic under control, there could not be a worse time to unveil the proposed measures. Online comments responding to the consultation process that ends on March 27 express a range of views from concern to anger to blatant racism. Nor do the planned changes ensure a flood of fresh talent; China’s tight controls on information and its health care and education standards and entertainment options are important factors in determining immigration. The law needs to be rethought and unveiled when conditions are less fraught.