2. Preparing for the Trip
The best advice for making a move to China is to be prepared. Preparation depends on type of employment, living arrangements, and length of stay. Clearly, a scientist who will camp for several months on the Tibetan Plateau should make different preparations than the Fulbright professor who will live in Beijing's Friendship Hotel. A young college graduate planning to teach conversational English and prepared to live on a shoestring will make different arrangements than the advanced graduate student carrying out dissertation research. Whether you will live in a dormitory room, a university apartment, or a guest house in the countryside; whether you will be in a big city, a small town, a rural area, or the wilderness; whether you will be alone or with spouse and children, and the type of institutional support available are all major factors determining how you prepare for the trip. The chapters on studying, teaching, and research provide advice germane to those situations. This chapter is devoted to advice that applies generally to everyone planning an extended stay.
The best general advice is to talk to people who have had a recent experience similar to the one you are about to have, particularly those who have been most recently in the place you are about to go. China is in a constant state of flux, and what was true two years ago may no longer be true today. The country, too, is remarkably diverse, and what holds true for Changchun (it is extremely cold in winter but heat is usually—though not always—plentiful) is not true of Chengdu (winters are mild but buildings are unheated and staying warm depends on the layers of clothing worn). The more you know about your destination, the type of employment, and the experiences of those who preceded you, the better prepared you will be.
LEAVING THE UNITED STATES
Sponsoring organizations in the United States or China generally provide detailed information on travel arrangements, visas, shipping procedures, methods of payment while abroad, and regulations and procedures governing specific cases. Because there is constant change in regulations, services, and procedures, it is advisable to seek the most current information on these matters from your sponsor. The following is a general guide to what to expect as a long-term resident. Of course, it is not a prescription relevant to every case.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
U.S. citizens must have a valid passport. Passports may be obtained through a local passport office, which is located in the post office in smaller cities. It may take as much as six weeks to receive a passport after application has been made. If you already have a passport, be sure that it will not expire during your intended stay. A visa is required for entry into China and may be obtained from the visa section of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Washington, D.C., or from one of the Chinese consulates in San Francisco, New York, Houston, Chicago, or Los Angeles (addresses and telephone numbers are given below). The consulate, sponsor, or a large travel agency can provide the necessary forms. Copies of two standard forms are reproduced in Appendixes E and F. The application must be filled out in duplicate and mailed with the passport, two passport photos, and the visa fee. The cost of the visa depends on how quickly you want it and whether you request a single- or double-entry visa.
The Chinese government offers several types of visas. Researchers going for less than six months may obtain an ordinary tourist (''L") visa good for three months or short-term ("F") visa good for six months or less. It is now possible to get double-entry tourist visas if you plan to leave and return within the six-month period. Researchers and students going for longer than six months should get an "X" visa. Foreign experts or teachers planning to spend a year or more get a "Z" visa. The consulate will determine which visa is appropriate to the situation, often based on information provided by the Chinese host organization. If the wrong visa has been issued, it can be corrected in China for an additional fee. If your family is accompanying you, they will be issued a visa after the authorization for yours comes through. You will need to send the consulate your family members' passports and a letter of invitation from the host organization. An ordinary single-entry visa, with a two-week waiting period, is $10; one with a three-day waiting period is $20; and a 24-hour request costs $30. The visa section does not ordinarily accept checks; prepare to pay in cash or by money order. For
express mail service, include a self-addressed express mail label along with the proper postage.
The PRC government offices in the United States are listed below:
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Main number: 202-328-2500
Visa Section: 202-328-2517
Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
104 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603
Visa Section: 312-346-0288
Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
3417 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, TX 77006
Visa Section: 713-524-4311
Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
501 Shatto Place #34
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Visa Section: 213-380-2506
Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
520 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Visa Section: 212-868-7752
Consulate General of the People's Republic of China
1450 Laguna Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94115
Visa Section: 415-563-4857
When filling out the visa application, include the exact dates or close estimate of entry into and exit from China. The visa will be stamped in the passport and returned to you within the time frame you requested. Be advised, however, that issuance of anything but a short-term (three- or six-month) tourist visa hinges on the Chinese host unit's approval and its transmission of information to the appropriate consulate, or to
the embassy, in the United States. Students' and researchers' visas are approved by the foreign affairs division of the organization governing the institution with which they will be affiliated. Teachers' visas are approved by the State Education Commission, the Foreign Experts Bureau, the ministry responsible for your educational institution, or the foreign affairs office of the provincial government, depending on which higher level unit your institution falls under.
Application for the visa should be accompanied by as much supporting evidence as possible, including copies of contracts (keep the originals for your own records), letters of invitation, or other documents that prove you are expected in China. Issuance of the visa requires considerable coordination between you and your host organization, and you will want to monitor the process closely. Sometimes a visa approval is mistakenly sent from China to the wrong consulate or the wrong office or section within a consulate. If delays occur, it is wise to fax the host institution to check on this possibility. Be sure also to check how long the visa will be valid. If it expires during your sojourn in China, it must be renewed with the help of the host unit. Some consulates will offer double-entry visas if you can demonstrate a need to travel outside of China during your stay. Many long-term residents want double-entry visas even if they have no travel plans. If a medical or family emergency requires a temporary leave, re-entry will be simpler with a double-entry visa.
Very often, the visa process is prolonged. Some people report receiving their visa only a few days before scheduled departure. Stay in contact with your Chinese host and a representative at the Chinese consulate so you can work together to smooth the process.
If for some reason the visa authorization does not come through, it is possible to get a tourist visa within 24 hours from the embassy or a consulate in the United States, or from the China Travel Service (CTS) in Hong Kong. This is not the appropriate visa for a student, teacher, or anyone planning to stay longer than six months and should be used only as an emergency measure.
China Travel Service has offices at the following locations in Hong Kong (country code 852):
27 Nathan Road
77 Queens Road, Central District
Hong Kong Island
U.S. citizens require no visa for a stopover in Hong Kong. China also issues tourist visas at the point of entry into China, but this procedure is not institutionalized and is best avoided by the long-term visitor.
Many American residents enter China via Japan or travel there for medical or dental care or for recreation, shopping, or research. U.S. citizens no longer need a visa for short-term visits to Japan. A U.S. passport is good for a 90-day stay there.
INVITING RELATIVES TO CHINA
Relatives can visit for up to three months on a single-entry (or up to six months on a double-entry) tourist visa obtained through one of the consulates listed above or in Hong Kong. For visits of longer than six months, it is best to have the host unit or its parent organization (for example, the State Education Commission, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, or the Chinese Academy of Sciences) issue an approval for the visa. Otherwise, your relative would have to return to Hong Kong to get a visa reissued there.
Visiting friends and relatives can stay in tourist hotels, but space should be reserved early during the busy tourist season (from May through October). Students have had varying degrees of success in arranging for guests to stay with them in dormitories. Some warn that there is a policy against accommodating more than two persons in the same room or suite, and only spouses may share the same bed. Parents may keep a small child with them, but not a teenager. However, when the visit is only for a week or two, these rules are often overlooked.
If your visitor wants to travel in China, you will probably be responsible for helping with the arrangements. Host institutions are often willing to help arrange travel for researchers and senior scholars who want to tour the country at the end of their stay, and some will extend the same courtesy to "significant others." If your host institution cannot help with arrangements, the China Travel Service (CTS) will. Every city has a China Travel Service, and many tourist hotels now have small branch offices, though the quality of service varies. Some Chinese speakers with flexible schedules prefer to make travel arrangements on their own, bypassing the CTS. Airline tickets are relatively easy to purchase, either through local ticket offices or through tourist hotels, but round-trip tickets are not generally available. Try to reserve a seat two or three days in advance of your travel since planes often become fully booked. Hotel reservations should also be made well in advance.
Despite different standards of sanitation, frequent respiratory flare-ups, and occasional stomach upset, most Americans remain remarkably healthy in China. But the type of provisions you make for health care in China will depend on where you live while there and whether you are bringing children with you. The medi-
cal care available in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou is considerably more advanced and accessible than in smaller towns or remote areas of the country. It is wise to meet with your personal physician in the United States before leaving to map out a health strategy for China. Incidentally, international direct dial telephone communication is now possible in many parts of China (although not in small towns or remote areas) and much anxiety can be relieved simply by knowing that your own doctor is still only a telephone call away. Most doctors will want to prescribe a range of medications for possible ailments in China, and anyone with chronic problems or serious allergies should plan to take along a full supply of medication and perhaps determine what to do should an emergency occur in China. Note that many common medications are not available in the PRC.
Your personal physician should also determine which immunizations to give you before departure—perhaps after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (telephone: 404-639-3311) for their latest recommendations. China does not require immunizations unless a traveler enters from an area known to have cholera or yellow fever. However, booster vaccines should be current for diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, and polio (primary series for polio and typhoid are recommended if you did not take them as a child). The hepatitis-B vaccine may also be recommended if you have not previously received it. The U.S. Embassy suggests having a TB skin test every year. Measles, mumps, and rubella are not controlled in developing countries, and pregnant women should be immunized against rubella.
Viral hepatitis (type A) is widespread in China and many doctors recommend gamma globulin as a prophylaxis for long-term visitors. Gamma globulin is effective only for four to six months and is not ordinarily available in Chinese hospitals. Some long-term residents bring in the serum and arrange to store it. However, the International Medical Center in Beijing now offers the vaccination to U.S. citizens in China for approximately $100 a shot. The dosage is good for six months. The International Medical Center is located at:
Beijing Lufthansa Center
Office/Apartment Bldg., Room S106
No. 50 Liangmaqiao Road
Telephone: (86) 1-465-1561
FAX: (86) 1-465-1984
If you will be in China during the warm months, especially outside large urban areas, either you or your doctor should check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether malaria is endemic where you will be and, if so, what strain is present. Depend-
ing on conditions in your destination, your doctor may prescribe a prophylaxis against malaria.
Finally, the U.S. Embassy recommends vaccination against Japanese encephalitis. The disease, which can cause serious brain damage and has a 25-percent fatality rate, is transmitted by mosquitoes and occurs mainly from June through September in rural areas of Asia. The National Center for Infectious Diseases reports that the risk among American travelers is less than one case per year for each million travelers to Asia. The risk for travelers to rural areas, however, is one in 5,000 in a one-month period. In temperate areas of China, there is no risk during the winter. The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is available in the United States under the trade name Je-Vax, distributed through Connaught Laboratories in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania. Your physician can order the vaccine (1-800-VACCINE), which is administered in three doses spread over 30 days.
The International Medical Center in Beijing also provides the three-shot series at a cost of US$60 each. The shots are given in Beijing at one-week intervals.
Your physician should also be consulted about prescribing disposable syringes to take to China, since not all Chinese hospitals use them and since even "disposable" syringes have been reported to be recycled. Some people suggest bringing two types of syringes: one for administering injections and the other for drawing blood. Be sure to bring a copy of the prescription in case you are questioned at customs.
If you are bringing children with you to China, make sure that the child's basic immunizations are up-to-date and bring your family's international health card with a record of basic immunizations. The U.S. Embassy recommends that the encephalitis vaccine not be given to children under 12 months of age unless they will be in a rural area. The hepatitis-B vaccine series is usually begun at the age of one year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that gamma globulin be given to infants and children as prophylaxis for hepatitis-A.
Useful information about relevant immunizations, diseases, and prevention can be found in the pamphlet Health Information for International Travel (publication #017-023-00192-2), available for $6.50 from:
Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402
The International Travel Clinic
Johns Hopkins University Hampton House
550 N. Broadway, #107
Baltimore, MD 21205
For anyone planning to stay in China for a year or more, the Chinese government requires a thorough health examination within two months before arrival, including a chest X-ray and an HIV test for AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), which must be administered less than a month before entry. China will not allow entry to anyone who has tested HIV-positive.
The host organization will provide health forms to be filled out by your doctor or hospital, and a visa will be granted only when the consulate processing your application is satisfied that the forms are in proper order. Your Chinese work unit will review them again on arrival in China. A copy of the form is provided in Appendix G. The procedures are lengthy, cumbersome, and expensive. Individual costs may be as high as $400, and for a family of four the cost will be more than $1,000. All forms must be original and certified, and some Chinese work units prefer that the tests be done by a hospital rather than a clinic. To quote one student in China:
The real nuisance was getting the form certified as genuine. To begin with we had to convince a local notary to go with us to the doctor's office, since the doctor was too busy to go to the notary. The infuriating part was that the Los Angeles Chinese consulate would not accept the single notary seal; they insisted the we also have the California state seal certifying that the Santa Barbara notary was indeed a genuine one. This entailed sending everything to Sacramento by express mail and making countless phone calls to the state office. We had to make three trips to the LA consulate, and finally managed to get the visa the day before departing.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. appears to be more flexible in issuing notary seals than are the consulates.
Some people arrive in China after spending much money and time on the health certificate to discover that their institution treats the health forms as an empty formality and that certification could have been done quickly and inexpensively in China. Other Chinese institutions refuse to accept forms that they believe are not properly filled out or certified or that come from clinics rather than hospitals. Some people want to avoid having the health tests repeated in China because X-ray equipment may be older and because physical exams in Chinese hospitals may not be as private as in the United States. To avoid having to repeat the tests in China, it is important that the form be filled out completely and that you bring with you to China the original certified health forms and your chest X-ray. If you are planning to be in China less than one
year, you do not need to be tested for AIDS. However, if you change your plans and extend your stay beyond a year, you will have to be tested in China.
You are strongly advised to keep up your existing insurance policies; you should also discuss with your insurance company how much coverage you will have abroad and how to apply for reimbursement of services rendered in China. Most Chinese health administrators will not be familiar with long, complicated insurance forms, and it is unlikely that they would be able to bill your insurance company directly. It is therefore important to clarify the procedures before leaving the United States.
Some long-term residents in China have recommended the Blue Shield International Blue Chip Plan based in Hong Kong, which is generally less expensive than many U.S.-based policies. Write:
Blue Shield International, Ltd.
Causeway Bay Post Office Box 30961
FAX: (852) 559-8492
Blue Shield International is one of many insurance companies based in Hong Kong offering policies that include the services of SOS Assistance. SOS Assistance allows you to contact a Western doctor in China 24 hours a day and will arrange for full-scale medical evacuations with reimbursement of expenses. SOS Assistance is also available as an independent policy. For information on SOS Assistance, contact:
International SOS Assistance (HK) Ltd.
GPO Box 2981
Beijing telephone (24-hour alarm center): 1-500-3388 or 500-3419
Philadelphia telephone: 215-245-4707
Another private company offering medical evacuation and insurance in China is:
Asia Emergency Assistance PTE Ltd.
Room 1010, 10th Floor, China World Trade Center
No. 1, Jianguomenwai Dajie
Beijing 100004, PRC
Note that if you are placing an international call to China, you must first dial the country code 86.
If you will be based near Beijing, you may also want to consider
purchasing a membership plan at the International Medical Center (IMC). IMC has a Western medical staff of physicians and nurses and offers a range of services and membership plans. IMC offers a ten percent discount on all fees to members of SOS. See page 13 for IMC's address.
MEDICATIONS AND TOILETRIES
As part of health care management, some people suggest carrying a basic medical encyclopedia. David Werner's Where There Is No Doctor is recommended for people living in small towns and villages where medical care is less available. Take with you any prescription drugs you may need, especially if you will be living outside major cities. It is useful to have the Latin names of medications because that is what Chinese medical personnel will recognize. People with a history of asthma, bronchitis, or tonsillitis should be prepared for frequent flare-ups, especially in cities and during the winter. For allergy sufferers, Peking Union Medical College has a good allergy clinic. Allergy medicine can be packed in dry ice, if necessary, and the prescription refilled at Peking Union Medical College. The U.S. Embassy urges residents in Beijing to buy humidifiers for use during the winter months as prevention against colds, and the advice probably applies to all parts of China where winters are dry. Chinese-made humidifiers are now readily available. Almost every newcomer contracts a cold within a few weeks of arrival in China, and some foreigners are plagued with respiratory problems throughout their stay. It is wise, therefore, to take plenty of cold remedies, cough drops, and throat lozenges. You can also ask your local clinic for help; Chinese remedies for colds are mild but quite effective.
A personal first-aid kit might include vitamins, aspirin, lomotil (for diarrhea), antacid, cough drops, deodorant, sunscreen, lip balm, first-aid spray, athlete's foot medicine, shaving cream, dental floss, insect repellent, a lice-removal kit for remote fieldwork, a thermometer, and earplugs. Women who will be living outside Beijing are advised to take a good supply of sanitary napkins and tampons, although many cities now carry O.B. brand tampons. In Beijing, Watson's drug store, now at several locations, Welcome at the China World Trade Center, and the drug store at the Lido Holiday Inn now have steady supplies of tampons. If you are subject to gynecological infections, bring your remedies along.
Watson's in Beijing sells condoms and over-the-counter birth control pills, but contraceptives are not easily obtained by foreigners in most parts of China and cannot be mailed from outside. Eyeglasses are quite inexpensive in China, but some people have not been satisfied with the quality of the lenses. In any case, it is a good idea to take an extra pair as well as your prescription with you. Contact lens solutions are now
available at Watson's and other Western pharmacies in Beijing, but supplies are less reliable in other cities and unavailable in small towns. Contact lens wearers report problems with dust and advise taking a pair of glasses with you as a fallback. A good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from dust and debris as well as glare.
Modern dental equipment is still scarce in China, so a thorough dental checkup is advisable before leaving the United States. Beijing, however, does have several good dental clinics, with U.S.-trained dentists, and some people have been quite satisfied with the quality of dentistry there, although you will want to use the department that services foreigners and high-level cadres. Senior researchers and foreign experts will have a better chance of getting an appointment there than will students. The clinics are:
Beijing School of Stomatology
Wei Gong Cun, Haidian District
Telephone: 1-831-0858, x 584; 1-832-9977, x 580
Dr. Lin Qiongguang
Sino-German Polyclinic Dental Facility
located in the basement of the Landmark Tower
Telephone: 1-501-1983; 1-501-6688 x 20903
Beijing Jing-Liang Dental Clinic
133 Dianmenwai, Xicheng District
Ms. Ma (dental assistant)
Chinese brands of soap, shampoos, face creams, and other necessities for personal care are quite good and inexpensive. Familiar Western brands are available in Western drug stores, and Chinese stores are beginning to carry a few Western brands as well.
MONEY, BANKING, AND CREDIT CARDS
Americans who will be paid by U.S. sources while in China can receive money directly in three ways:
Money deposited in an American account can be drawn on checks guaranteed by an American Express card at certain branches of the Bank of China.
Money can be deposited in a designated account in a U.S. bank that has an international division with correspondent relations with China (many major banks in large cities offer this service); funds can then be wired to a Chinese bank account as needed.
Money can be wired directly to a Chinese bank account. Fund
transfers to China for the most part are now routine, but before your departure you should clarify with the U.S. bank how these transactions are managed.
Many people find that by far the easiest method of obtaining cash in China is to write a personal check on a U.S. bank account and then guarantee it with an American Express card. As of this writing, American Express-guaranteed checks can be cashed in the main branch of the Bank of China in the capital city of every province and often at other cities within each province. Counter checks are usually available if you have your account number and the name and address of your bank. A list of locations that have banks where the American Express card can be used is included in Appendix K. A personal check will be honored for up to Y750 with an American Express green card and Y2,000 with a gold card without American Express authorization. (The official exchange rate in February 1994 was Y8.7 to US$1.00.) With American Express approval, you can cash $1,000 every 21 days with a green card and $5,000 every 21 days with a gold card issued in the United States or $2,000 every 21 days with a gold card issued in other countries. American Express approval for these larger amounts can be given immediately only in banks with computers. In banks without computers, a telephone call must be made, which sometimes takes time. If the bank you will be using does not have a computer, you may want to make your request a day in advance or plan to return to the bank several hours after the request has been made. Many people find the American Express arrangements sufficient for ordinary living expenses. When it is necessary to pay large amounts of money for tuition or affiliation fees, however (see Chapter 4), you are likely to find yourself short of cash. Some people recommend taking traveler's checks to cover the large expenditures and using the American Express card to get cash for daily expenses.
If you do not have an American Express card or are not in an area with American Express services, plan to carry a good supply of traveler's checks. All the major brands are honored but American Express traveler's checks can be purchased at designated branches of the Bank of China in many cities. Traveler's checks offer a slightly higher rate of exchange than currency, although a one-percent service fee is charged for cashing them. Traveler's checks can be exchanged at any Bank of China service desk located in airports, major hotels, and stores that serve foreigners, but smaller towns and shops in rural areas are not likely to recognize them, so you should bring enough cash if you are visiting an unfamiliar area. The main office for American Express is in Beijing, but Shanghai, Xi'an, Guilin, Chengdu, and Guangzhou also have offices that can arrange reimbursement for lost checks. Note that
while the American Express card can be used to obtain cash at all the locations listed in Appendix K, only the offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Guilin, Chengdu, and Guangzhou can arrange to replace lost traveler's checks.
The American Express credit card can also be used for purchases and hotel payments in most joint-venture hotels and in many Chinese establishments that cater to foreign tourists. New establishments are being added daily. For further information, write for the American Express booklet, Guide to China.
Visa and MasterCard can also be used in some locations, both as payment and for cash advances of up to US$500 at designated Bank of China service counters—for a service charge of four percent.
Many people planning to stay in China longer than a few months open a U.S. dollar bank account with the Bank of China. Banking regulations vary from place to place and policies change constantly, so you should learn your bank regulations before opening an account. Payroll and third-party checks cannot be cashed under any circumstances, and personal or bank checks can take at least one month to clear. The Tiananmen experience of June 1989, when most Americans were evacuated and some did not have time to withdraw their money, has made some people cautious about how much money they keep in a Chinese account. You may want to depend on periodic deposits from your U.S. bank account rather than putting all your funds into a Chinese account.
You can also obtain money via international money order. Because there are no standard banking practices in China, policies on cashing international money orders differ from city to city. In some places they can be cashed immediately, whereas in others they may take one to three months to clear.
Appendix L includes prices for selected hotels, food, services, transportation, clothing, and medical care. For further information on currency and banking in China—and for information for people who will receive direct payment by Chinese organizations—see Chapter 7.
Customs regulations as of this writing are in a state of flux. On the final leg of your flight to China, you will be given a customs declaration form on which to list any cameras, tape recorders, valuable jewelry, typewriters, or computers being brought into the country and the amount of currency and traveler's checks on your person. The form will be checked at the customs desk—after the baggage claim area in most airports—and you will be given a copy. In the past, customs officials asked to see the copy when you left the country and could impose stiff fines if you failed to prove that you were taking out all items declared on entry. Fines were also imposed
for losing the form. Recently, however, customs officials have not been requesting these forms on departure. Until the changes in customs regulations become clear, you are advised to keep your copy.
One purpose of the customs declaration form is to prevent the sale or gifts of items that are relatively difficult to obtain in China and might have a high resale value or (in the case of reading material) that might be offensive to the Chinese government. If, for instance, you brought in small pocket calculators or digital clocks to give away as gifts, fines of up to 100 percent of their value could be imposed if you leave without them. A few people report having books (such as Orville Schell's Discos and Democracy) confiscated on entering China. If, however, reading materials are for your private use, the possibility of confiscation is minimal.
Foreigners entering China may bring up to four bottles of liquor, 600 cigarettes, an unlimited supply of medicine for personal use (in its original labeled container), personal effects, and an unlimited amount of currency and traveler's checks. There are no restrictions on still cameras, 8mm cameras, film, or personal video equipment (for example, cam-corders) but professional film and video equipment may not be brought in or taken out of China without special permission.
Americans going to Shanghai should note that the U.S. Consulate General there has received frequent complaints that Shanghai customs officials routinely assess and collect unusually high customs duties, particularly for supplies forwarded as unaccompanied baggage or sent through the international mail. Shanghai customs has published a pamphlet that lists prohibited and restricted items for all of China and gives some estimates for possible duties. Although this information is not definitive, it does give prospective American residents an idea of potential customs problems. The regulations in the pamphlet apply to all of China, but Shanghai is stricter about enforcing them. The Shanghai consular district includes the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Zhejiang. You should request a copy of this pamphlet from your Chinese host before leaving the United States.
According to the pamphlet,
Articles prohibited entry include not only the usual firearms, wireless transmitters, drugs, plants, contaminated foodstuffs, and Chinese currency but also, and much more ambiguously, ''publications, photographs, tapes, records and any other material harmful to Chinese politics, economy, culture or morals."
Certain articles may be brought in only in restricted quantity: wristwatches, pocket watches, and bicycles at one per person; cameras, radios, and sewing machines at one per family.
Duty is high: 20 percent for grains, flours, medical equipment,
scientific instruments, and electronic calculators; 50 percent for medicines, home and office equipment, tape recorders, tools, televisions, sports equipment, and musical instruments; 100 percent or higher (150 or 200 percent) for all other items.
In addition, some advice for minimizing customs problems includes the following:
Bring in as accompanied baggage as many personal supplies as possible, since personally accompanied baggage usually receives the most favorable treatment by Chinese customs officials.
Heavy books and other professional supplies are best shipped separately (the foreign affairs office of the host unit is the best place to send the boxes); the Chinese host institution should be asked to handle customs clearance as part of its support for your activities in China.
Be prepared to encounter what you might judge to be arbitrary and excessive customs duties levied on any packages sent by international mail. Some customs officials can be arbitrary about what cannot be shipped out of China, especially things looking like antiques or handicrafts. One researcher noted that it is easier to mail international packages with the aid of a Chinese friend, and postal clerks are likely to be more cooperative with customers who are courteous and friendly.
Some Americans who will be in China for extended periods have requested information about bringing pets. Personnel at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., have stated that although bringing animals into China is not prohibited, it is unwise to do so. Chinese customs officers are extremely strict about quarantining animals, and often this results in the animal being quarantined for about as long as the American remains in China.
When you leave the United States, be sure to register with U.S. customs officials any cameras or other equipment subject to duty that you are taking with you to China. Save the receipts to present upon reentry into the United States so that you are not taxed on items made in Asia that you bought prior to departure. A useful booklet, Customs Hints for Returning U.S. Citizens: Know Before You Go, is available free of charge from the U.S. Customs Service, P.O. Box 7407, Washington, D.C. 20044, and from most travel agents. Travelers returning to the United States from China can bring back, duty free, purchases of up to US$400 per person; an additional US$1,000 worth of goods will be taxed at a rate of ten percent. Regular duty charges, which are considerably higher, apply to purchases exceeding the initial US$1,400. Special rates and exemptions are given to Americans who live abroad for more than one year. If you have a letter of invitation or appointment stating that you
will reside in China for one year or longer, show it to U.S. customs officials on your return to the United States.
BAGGAGE AND SHIPPING
To avoid excess baggage charges, it is best to travel light. Passengers flying to China from the United States are allowed two pieces of luggage, neither of which may exceed 62 inches (adding all three linear dimensions); both pieces together may not exceed 106 inches. Air China, China's largest international carrier, calculates limits by weight; economy-class passengers are allowed two bags, which may not exceed a total of 44 pounds (20 kilograms). Travel agents advise that carry-on allowances are becoming stricter on all airlines.
Baggage allowances for traveling in Asia, including China, are also calculated by weight; the 44-pound limit applies in most countries. Thus, it is possible that if you travel within China, or if you stop in Hong Kong or Tokyo or Shanghai, for example, before going on to your final destination in China, you may be charged for excess baggage weight even though you stayed within the limit on your U.S. carrier. In group travel, excess baggage charges are based on the total weight for the entire group. You may want to compare the additional cost of extra weight with the cost of sending things airmail. The difference may be marginal and worth it to ensure that you have your materials on arrival.
For long-term stays, items may be shipped ahead by mail (allow two to three months for sea mail) in care of the foreign affairs office of the host institution. However, used clothing, even for personal use, cannot be sent through the mails. Books may be shipped using the special book rates that apply to China; check with your local post office for details. The U.S. Postal Service will supply used post office bags (request "M-bags") that can be filled with boxed printed matter (15 pounds minimum per bag, 66 pounds maximum); the bags go by surface mail (six to eight weeks in transit). Books go for 72 cents a pound; printed matter, $1.32 a pound. Several airlines will accept large parcels as air freight; check with the cargo division of the airlines for details. It is best to schedule air shipments after your own arrival in China so you can pick them up and clear them through customs. Some people report considerable confusion over collecting their packages, largely because it is hard to determine which office is holding them. If possible, get the telephone number and address of the office in China before you leave, and make certain that the office administering shipments is also the same for package pickup. Administrative offices are often in a different location from where your packages will be stored. Take all forms relating to shipment with you when you go to retrieve your packages. Occasionally an entire box is lost or valuable contents stolen. Be certain to register whatever you send.
According to the tax agreement between the United States and PRC, American teachers and scholars in China are exempt from taxation by the Chinese government for three years (either consecutive or interrupted) on payment received for teaching or research activities. However, paid free-lance work in China is subject to Chinese and U.S. taxes. Income for work performed in China by a U.S. citizen or resident alien is subject to U.S. income tax; income in the form of fellowships may also be subject to U.S. tax. If Chinese income tax has been paid, the taxpayer may be eligible for the Foreign Tax Credit, which is computed on form 1116.
There is a foreign earned income exclusion of up to $70,000 for income earned abroad. Generally, the work assignment must be for more than a full year. Information about the exclusion may be found in publication 54.
These tax laws are complicated, and it is best to consult a specialist for details. IRS package 776 contains the necessary forms and information to enable Americans abroad to file their tax returns. To obtain this or other information, contact:
Internal Revenue Service AC (International)
950 L'Enfant Plaza South, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20024
Tokyo office: (81) 3-3224-5466
The U.S. Embassy and consulates in China sometimes invite IRS officers to visit between January and March. The embassy and consulates also distribute federal (but not state) tax forms.
Many Americans traveling to China for the first time who have not read widely on modern Chinese history and thought should read as much as possible before the journey. Many find it doubly illuminating to read about China while experiencing it firsthand. Appendix M provides a selected reading list of titles in modern Chinese politics, society, literature, and thought.
PREPARING FOR DAILY LIFE
The days when coffee was unavailable even in Beijing are long gone, although coffee connoisseurs may still want to bring along a supply of their favorite brew. The Chinese economy is booming now, and consumer goods that were unimaginable a decade ago are now commonplace in China's major cities. But for Americans, the small towns and villages, while thriving, may still be lacking in goods that many may consider essential. Suggestions for fieldworkers in remote parts of the
country are contained in Chapter 4, but the general rule for fieldworkers is still to bring everything you will need. And the same advice applies to all others going to small towns and villages. Western clothing for sale in small towns generally does not come in a large variety of styles and sizes. Food, while plentiful, is local. Outside major urban areas it is unlikely to find such items as cheese, coffee, steak, and salad. For many in small villages and towns, the fun is in living as much like the Chinese as possible; some, however, do make periodic forays into nearby cities to replenish their supplies and vacation with Western-style amenities.
China's major cities, particularly those along the coast, offer a wide and fascinating variety of consumer goods. Every Chinese city is dotted with neighborhood shopping areas complete with open-air food markets, hardware stores (stocked with tools, pottery, plastic buckets, and baskets), a Xinhua (New China) Bookstore, laundries, restaurants, bakeries, barber and beauty shops, photography shops, bicycle repair shops, tailors, and a general store that carries everything from cooking items, toiletries, and clothing to bicycles and sewing machines. China is now manufacturing many clothes that are sold in the United States, and seconds or irregulars can be found in hotel stores, fancy Chinese-run shops, and numerous outdoor free markets. Some cities, especially Beijing, even have Western supermarkets (at the Lido Hotel and the China World Trade Center) and drug stores—selling goods at greatly inflated prices. Prices of Chinese-made goods are no longer the great bargains of the early 1980s, and imported goods, while available in larger cities, are usually more expensive. Even Chinese cashmere, once a great bargain, is more expensive now, although still considerably cheaper than in the United States. But good prices are still to be found on rugs, embroidered cotton, quilts, leather goods, and down coats, jackets, and vests. Imported wines, candies, shampoos, and makeup are widely available in Friendship Stores and Western hotels.
Outside Beijing (and, increasingly, Shanghai and Guangzhou), it is almost impossible to predict what will be available at any given time. Finding the stores that carry what you need will take time. If you see something you need or like, buy it. It may not be there when you come back.
People who have brought small children to China, even to cities where just about everything is available, suggest bringing a good supply of household cleaning agents, such as liquid detergents for cleaning floors and rugs, and rubber gloves to protect your hands. Older buildings have not been subjected to the strong cleansers that Americans are accustomed to using, and dirt tends to get ground in. American parents often do not feel comfortable letting their children play on the floor until they have satisfied themselves that the surfaces are clean and disinfected.
Within these limits, the less you take, the better. Storage space is limited in hotels and dormitories. Most dormitories and apartments will have only a small free-standing armoire for clothes. A small footlocker or trunk with a lock is useful for storing and transporting goods; some researchers suggest locking valuables, such as notebook computers, in the trunk while you are out of the room.
Western and Chinese styles of dress are converging. Dress in China is casual, but not nearly as casual as in the past. Chinese men are wearing coats and ties and women are wearing skirts and dresses. Appropriate dress in China is pretty much the same as that worn under similar circumstances in the United States. Attire will depend on age, status, and the occasion. Men can wear casual slacks and an open neck shirt for teaching, and a coat and tie for meetings, more formal lectures, and banquets. Women can wear slacks, skirts, or dresses to teach, and somewhat dressier attire for special occasions. Nevertheless, the Chinese expect their teachers to be somewhat conservative. Students dress much less formally than visiting Fulbright scholars or researchers, although a certain modest decorum must be observed even on the hottest summer day. Bright colors and tasteful jewelry are quite acceptable now, but extremes of style and ostentation are not considered acceptable for "intellectuals." Bare midriffs, shorts (except for sports), and décolletage are still considered risqué. Bermuda-length shorts, however, are acceptable on men and younger women. No matter what your age or status, you will be doing a lot of walking, so comfortable walking shoes and sturdy boots are essential.
In general, China, except for the far south, has extreme variations in temperature. For example, Beijing is bitterly cold in winter and hot and humid in summer. This is true even in such "southern" cities as Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hangzhou. Residents warn that winters are cold and the heat is turned on late (well into November)—and then only for a few hours a day. Many public buildings, libraries, offices, and laboratories are unheated altogether. Chilblains (dong chuang) —where the skin turns a patchy purple, especially on the hands and ears—are a common complaint in southern China in the winter because rooms are often unheated and the air is very damp. Dry exposed skin well after washing and keep fingers and ears covered at night if the room is unheated.
In areas where winters are cold and classrooms are unheated, it is wise to observe the Chinese custom of dressing in layers—many layers. Until Americans become fully accustomed to this necessity, or have suffered one too many respiratory ailments or chilblains, they tend to stop halfway—after three or four rather than the seven, eight—or eleven—layers that their Chinese friends will be wearing. Duo chuan yifu—"put on some more clothes"—is an admonition many under
dressed Americans will hear frequently from their Chinese friends. Unheated buildings are often as cold as, or colder than, the temperature outside and are damp as well. Chinese wear many layers of socks and sweater-like long underwear together with cotton longjohns, as well as layers of undershirts, cotton shirts, and several sweaters, all covered by thick wool or cotton padded coats or down jackets. The Chinese mian'ao, or cotton padded jacket, is less fashionable among Chinese now than in the past, but American students and teachers will appreciate its warmth. Thus layered, even the coldest, dampest room is comfortable, and layers can be peeled as the temperature rises. Cotton or woolen gloves with the tips of the fingers cut out are ideal for writing in unheated libraries or classrooms.
Chinese cities boast good tailors, and many Americans take advantage of the high-quality Chinese silk and wool to supplement their wardrobes. Ask friends, both Chinese and Western, for advice on good tailors, remembering that the cheapest are not usually the best. One strategy is to bring samples of your favorite styles and have them copied —which will mean leaving the original with the tailor until the task is complete. Several fittings will probably be necessary. Zippers and buttons are not of the highest quality in China, so it may be best to bring some of your own.
Chinese cities are usually dusty and polluted, so cleaning clothes is always a problem. Hot water in dormitories is neither abundant nor constant. Because laundry must be done by hand or sent out, clothing should be washable, sturdy, easy to care for, and of preshrunk material. Bring rubber gloves if detergents bother your skin. In a typical Beijing hotel these days, laundry costs Y3 or more per piece and is usually returned in the evening if taken in the early morning. Local neighborhood laundries are cheaper but will take longer. It may be best to wash underwear, socks, and sweaters by hand (bring a mild detergent) and send out larger items such as sheets, towels, shirts, and trousers. A few universities have washing machines installed in the foreign teachers' dormitory. Teachers and researchers sometimes buy small washing machines, and some hire an ayi (female helper) to come in once or twice a week to help with cleaning and marketing. Dry cleaning is available but expensive and may be of dubious quality. The best results are usually from the joint-venture hotels, several of which (for instance, the Jianguo and Jinglun in Beijing) have services for the public. One researcher notes that good, inexpensive, private dry cleaning businesses have sprung up in the alleys next to the Jinglun. When sending your clothing out at a Chinese hotel, be sure to specify dry cleaning. More than one Western scholar has found his woolen sports jacket laundered.
Clothing repairs are usually easy to arrange: sewing supplies are common in neighborhood shops; clothing repair shops are inexpensive
and efficient; and shoe repairmen offer their services on the streets at reasonable, and often negotiable, prices.
Appendix L lists items that are generally available (with approximate prices) as well as goods that are not easily found. Clothing is stocked seasonally; purchases should be made early in the season as stores run out of the best selections fairly quickly. Again, if you like it, buy it immediately. Size is a factor in determining price: a large sweater costs slightly more than a smaller one because it uses more material. Also, large sizes are often difficult to find, especially in Chinese department stores. Men who wear extra-large clothing (size 44 or larger) or shoes larger than size 10 should either take most of what they will need or plan to use a tailor. However, you should still be prepared for clothes that are cut too short or too slim. As one researcher noted: "Some tailors simply can't grasp that anyone could be so large—especially in the southern cities." Long underwear, pajamas, and silk underwear are generally good buys, but they are simply not available in larger sizes. Because Chinese sizes do not correspond exactly to American sizes, you should always try on clothing before you buy it—a sight, by the way, that often provides a great deal of amusement for Chinese onlookers because stores seldom have private fitting rooms.
The following wardrobe would serve anyone living in a city with wide variations in temperature. Items marked with an asterisk are those best brought from home.
sturdy walking shoes with thick soles for warmth*
comfortable sandals for summer*
bathing suit and cap*
warm socks (of wool and polypropylene)*
warm, sturdy slippers*
flannel and cotton pajamas*
long- and short-sleeved washand-wear shirts
rain parka or all-weather coat
lightweight or cotton trousers*
You should add to this list at least one or two dressy outfits for more formal occasions. Many academics have lamented that they did not bring along enough clothes for such occasions.
The median temperatures below give you some idea of what to expect, but, once again, in unheated buildings temperatures are often lower than outside, and the cold more penetrating. Temperatures may fluctuate considerably during the day. Higher humidity in the south also intensifies the extremes of temperature.
Fall and Spring
North China (Beijing)
Central China (Wuhan)
East China (Shanghai)
South China (Guangzhou)
FOOD AND COOKING SUPPLIES
Food in Chinese hotels and dormitories is usually nutritious but can become monotonous after a few weeks, particularly in dormitories. Time constraints usually confine students and teachers living on university campuses to dormitory fare several days a week, but there are many alternatives. Small, independently managed restaurants running the gamut from outdoor carts to modern restaurants with white tablecloths are springing up all over China. Many are surprisingly good and they offer many different styles of cuisine. Students on a limited budget often concentrate on the tiny outdoor stalls and night food markets where youtiao, shaobing, noodles, and other types of the "common man's" fare sell for mere pennies. Small restaurants offer a wide variety of China's cuisines, with nutritious fresh vegetables and well-prepared fish. Be attentive to sanitary conditions in the small private establishments; some people report stomach upsets after eating at some of the outdoor stands or less-sanitary small restaurants. As a general rule, fresh milk should be avoided, and foods should be well cooked. During the hottest summer months, avoid eating meat from outdoor stands, because it probably has not been refrigerated. Many enthusiasts of the new restaurants carry their own chopsticks or alcohol for cleaning those offered by the establishment—although many places are now using disposable chopsticks.
Free markets are also proliferating in China, and fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Because most Chinese farms still fertilize with nightsoil, the practice is to wash and peel whatever can be peeled (apples, pears, carrots) and to cook the rest. However, some people with hearty constitutions are able to eat well-washed fresh vegetables with no untoward effects. Some markets, like the one on the west side of Beijing's Ritan Park, cater to foreigners and are especially clean.
Foreign teachers often have a small refrigerator and limited cooking facilities in their apartments and some foreign dorms now have a kitchen on each floor, but the time involved in marketing and preparation discourages most people from preparing three meals a day. Some hire an ayi to come in and cook occasionally. Students in dormitories sometimes buy inexpensive hot plates, but they are illegal in most institutions because they are unsafe and drain the already overtaxed electrical systems.
Western food is rather expensive; most large cities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou especially) offer many choices—from the joint-venture hotels to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. Joint-venture hotels sometimes have a delicatessen section, and Friendship Stores now offer a wide variety of often homemade Western foods—from breads, jams, and sweets to cheese and ham for sandwiches. Instant coffee is widely available, but good coffee is not. You may want to take a supply, along with a cup-sized filter and filter paper. Instant soups, hot chocolate, pre-sweetened powdered drinks, and other instant foods can be prepared simply by adding boiled water, usually stored in thermos bottles and kept in your room. Beijing's supermarkets have a wide variety of imported non-perishable foods. Unboiled tap water is not potable in China except in a few joint-venture hotels having their own filtration systems.
For setting up housekeeping in China, most of the equipment can be purchased at local Friendship or hardware stores. As of this writing, only rubber gloves, teflon pans, and sponges seem generally difficult to find in the larger cities.
Electric current in China is 220 volts, 50 Hz (U.S. current is 110 volts, 60 Hz) so a transformer is needed with enough capacity to handle tape recorders, radios, and any other appliances that must be converted from standard American voltage. Many people recommend buying a transformer in the United States or Hong Kong since they can be difficult to find in China. Franzus and Hoffritz make transformers and a variety of different sized plugs, and Voltage Valet sells transformers for 50, 1000, and 1600 watt units. For further information, write:
Voltage Valet Division
P.O. Box 14399, 225 Sutton Place
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
Appliances with moving parts, such as typewriters and tape recorders, will still run more slowly with a transformer since most only convert volts, not frequency. As an alternative, these items can be converted to 50 Hz in the United States; you also might want to purchase equipment that can be used on either 110 or 220 volts or buy electrical items in Hong Kong, which also operates on 220/50. Extension plugs and extender sockets can be purchased in Chinese general stores and at some Friendship Stores; in some cases, Chinese clerks will even make extension cords and replace plugs. There is a bewildering variety of electrical outlets in China, sometimes even within the same building or room; there is no such thing as a "standard plug." An international
travel kit of plugs (Franzus and Hoffritz both manufacture them) is useful, especially since the ''universal" plugs sold in the United States usually do not fit Chinese outlets.
You may want to buy some electrical appliances in China. One of the most commonly sought is a small fan; a nine-inch model costs about Y120-150 and larger standing models are priced between Y320 and 500. Chinese-made blow dryers are also widely available. Used appliances can be resold at Friendship Stores and certain other stores (ask your Chinese hosts) at about half the purchase price if they are accompanied by the original sales slip. Some stores will buy back Western-made appliances as well. Much equipment gets passed from foreigner to foreigner as one group leaves and another comes in. Look for possible buys on bulletin boards and talk to friends who are about to leave.
Many people try to circumvent the electric problem by bringing equipment that can be operated on batteries. However, good, long-lasting batteries may be difficult to find in China. AA "penlight" batteries are readily available under brand names such as "White Elephant" and "Golden Bee," but they wear out much faster than foreign ones. Japanese batteries are easy to find in most eastern cities. Some people bring rechargeable nickel/cadmium (NiCad) AA batteries and a 220v 50c or solar-powered charger (available from Radio Shack and Edmund Scientific in the United States). A solar-powered charger can trickle-charge fully drained NiCad batteries over the course of one sunny day. Those who are technically inclined can make solar-powered chargers for larger electrical equipment, including laptop computers, by purchasing the requisite solar cells and connections from Edmund Scientific.
Battery chargers for regular batteries and sometimes NiCads are now available in many Chinese department stores. However, alkaline batteries are best for fieldwork; although they can't be recharged, they last the longest. Recharging batteries during fieldwork is inconvenient, especially if you are constantly on the move. Take a couple of hundred batteries for extensive tape recording. If you run out of American or Japanese-made batteries, try to get brands manufactured in the larger Chinese cities.
Bring an adequate supply of batteries for cameras, calculators, wristwatches, and micro-cassette tape recorders since these specialized varieties are difficult to find in China.
The necessary supplies and equipment will depend on the work there. Many teachers find that a typewriter is sufficient for their needs. A standard manual typewriter will give the most reliable service because there is no need to worry about electrical transformers and there is no problem finding repair shops, which also sell ribbons. Some teachers bring typewriters with wide carriages for
typing stencils. It is also easy to purchase a good manual typewriter in China for approximately Y300. Many units with foreign teachers will have such equipment.
Some teachers bring electric or battery-operated typewriters. The most efficient electric typewriters are those that can be operated on both 220 and 110 volts. People who bring 110-volt typewriters and use a transformer report difficulties because the transformer converts the voltage but not the frequency. The result is a slow machine and light print, and it is impossible to make carbons. One disadvantage of battery-operated typewriters is that some require special paper that cannot be bought in China.
Many researchers bring computers to China and have few problems using them once they are properly set up. Deciding which equipment to bring and how to protect data against brown-outs can be daunting, however. For a full discussion of various options and pitfalls, refer to the article by Norman Bock in the Fall/Winter 1991 issue of China Exchange News. Discussions with others who have had experience with computers in China may also prove useful. Computers are now widely used and many earlier problems are easier to manage with improved and updated equipment.
Electricity can be sporadic in China. Unless the computer has backup batteries to guarantee power when electricity goes down or, with a desktop computer, there is an alternative power source, there is always the risk of losing all the data. When using a computer, it is wise to save the document after every page. A voltage regulator is useful in protecting against voltage shifts. Dust and humidity are problems with computers; running a fan directly into the disk drive slots may keep the screen from jumping in hot weather.
Battery-operated laptops and notebooks are now the most popular choice of researchers in China, and they can be brought in as baggage with no problems from customs officials. This is also a disadvantage, however: small computers are easy to steal, and you should take precautions against theft. Many companies, including Apple, Compaq, and Toshiba make models that operate on either 110 or 220 volts, which solves the problem of a transformer. Often a power supply is purchased separately from the computer. It is a good idea to buy one that senses automatically which voltage is used.
In addition to the transformer, you will need a surge protector (wen ya dian yuan) to guard against voltage spikes. Surge protectors must be designed for 220 volts, and good ones can be purchased in China, although you are cautioned to buy a high-quality machine and check while in the store to be sure that it works. The transformer is then plugged into the surge protector. One researcher noted that he had found a device at a computer store in China that combines the functions
of voltage conversion and regulation with surge protection (zidong xiaoliu wen ya dian yuan). They are rather expensive, however. Regardless of which system you use, note that transformers become quite hot when left plugged in and may burn out if overheated. If you are planning to use your computer or other equipment requiring a transformer for long periods, training a fan on it will keep it cool. Otherwise, the transformer should be unplugged when not in use.
Bringing in a desktop computer is more cumbersome than bringing in a laptop and is more difficult to get through customs. Some people recommend buying one in China, where the prices, particularly in Beijing, are now only somewhat more expensive than in the United States. Advantages of desktop computers include the larger, easier-to read screen and the fact that many Chinese work units use them. You could also buy a screen in China and plug it into the video port on your laptop. If your desktop unit includes a port for a 5 1/2" disk, which is most commonly used in China, you will avoid the problem of transferring data on different-sized disks back and forth between your own machine and those of your work unit.
In large Chinese cities, brown-outs are not as common as they once were. However, if you do use a desktop computer it is advisable to have a back-up power supply to protect your data against brown-outs. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can be bought in China for several hundred dollars. Although most do not have the capacity to supply electricity for more than a few minutes, they will give you enough time to save your data and turn off the machine before the data are destroyed.
Setting up a printer in China can be problematic, because successful operation requires conversion of both volts and cycles. A few brands, such as Canon Bubble Jet, have portable models that run on both 110 volts 60 Hz and 220 volts 50 Hz. Many people suggest buying a printer in Hong Kong, where you will pay about ten percent extra for the 220/50 capacity.
As mentioned above, long-lasting batteries are difficult to find in many parts of China. Researchers using nickel cadmium batteries, which can be recharged, report that they need to be drained frequently when using a transformer. Some people prefer to use short-lived batteries and keep an ample supply on hand. They warn, however, that batteries can lose power suddenly, so it is necessary to save every page.
Since computers have come into wider use in China, it is now possible both to purchase and repair them in some cities. Large foreign computer companies have offices in major cities, and the Haidian district of Beijing has several computer shops selling disks, programs, and a variety of computer accessories. There is now a Computerland in Beijing, on Xizhimenwai Dajie, 1 Wenxingjie (phone 832-1279; fax 835
0777). They do not ordinarily sell parts and accessories, but they occasionally supply parts and do repair work for name-brand computer equipment such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.
Opinions on Chinese software vary. Many people have been quite pleased with computer software purchased in China. Others warn that viruses are rampant and recommend bringing anti-viral software with you, although some of the viruses are unknown in the United States and your anti-viral software could prove ineffective against them. One researcher recommends asking your Chinese hosts to lend you their anti-viral software, noting that it is effective, easy to use, and updated periodically.
Finally, customs regulations with respect to computers are changing. Portable computers brought in as luggage are now routinely waved through without being registered. If, however, you bring in a desktop computer that is registered with customs officials, you are technically supposed to bring it with you whenever you leave China, even for a short visit, unless you get authorization from your work unit to leave it behind. People who have had to get such authorization report that obtaining it can be extremely time-consuming, and the documents are not always accepted by customs officials.
As of this writing, bringing a personal fax machine into China continues to be problematic. It is difficult to bring one in as personal baggage, and customs officials often confiscate them temporarily. You will want to ask your work unit in advance whether they can help with arrangements. Even so, some people report that authorization from a work unit does not guarantee that customs will let it through. Some people advise against surrendering the machine to customs officials. If you must, however, get a receipt, stamped with an official red seal, and get the badge number of the customs official.
Some researchers use computers with a built-in fax, and fax machines are now available for sale in large Chinese cities at little more than what they cost in the United States. The use of fax machines in China is somewhat more complicated than in the United States. Most telephone lines available to foreigners must go through a central switchboard, which necessitates manual transmission and receipt of messages. Moreover, some domestic Chinese telephone lines are full of static, which affects the quality of transmission. Faxes on domestic direct dial (DDD) and international direct dial (IDD) lines are much better. For further information about faxes, see the article by Norman Bock, mentioned above, and Chapter 7.
Some office supplies may be unavailable in China. Lined notebooks, good-quality typing and printer paper, and felt-tip pens are particularly hard to find outside of Beijing or Shanghai. If you have a computer, bring adhesive labels for computer disks—some Chinese brands do not
adhere well. It is recommended that you also bring correction fluid, carbon paper, manila file folders, tape, paper clips, a good pencil sharpener, book mailers, colored pencils, glue sticks, magic markers, and, if you will be teaching, colored chalk and blackboard erasers. Manila envelopes, file cards, and boxes are usually available at stationery stores. Desk lamps in dormitory rooms are often fluorescent; some travelers prefer to bring their own high-intensity lamps.
RADIOS AND TAPE RECORDERS
A small AM/FM worldband transistor radio is useful for language practice and for news from outside China. Beijing Radio offers a special Chinese-English program (for schedules, see China Daily); Voice of America (VOA) schedules, which change four times a year, can be obtained from the U.S. Embassy. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) airs programs at several frequencies between 5:00 and 9:00 a.m. China Daily, the English-language newspaper available in most major Chinese cities, offers useful information about television and radio broadcasts in Chinese.
If you buy a shortwave radio, be sure that the shortwave bands go at least to 23 KHz to tune in VOA and U.S. Armed Forces programs. Small transistor radios can be purchased in China and are adequate for local stations, but they are not powerful enough to bring in broadcasts from outside the country. Most foreign-made radios and tape recorders can now be repaired in Beijing and Shanghai. Imported and Chinese-made cassette recorders also can be purchased now in China, but they are expensive. Blank cassette tapes are easy to buy, but they are not of the best quality; taking a supply with you is worth the trouble if you plan to use them for music. Locally purchased cassettes should be adequate for making language tapes. In most cities you can purchase recorded music, mainly classical Chinese and Western selections, but Western and Chinese pop music is available, too. Most foreigners take their favorite music with them, wish they had brought more, and find that these tapes make fine gifts for Chinese friends and teachers when they leave.
CAMERAS AND FILM
Photography has become popular in China in recent years, particularly among the more affluent young, and many have become avid photographers. Both the purchase and development of film is easier now than several years ago. Kodak and Fuji film are easy to buy in large cities, but it is advisable to bring film if you will be in out-of-the-way places or to ensure that the film you are using is fresh. Print film is generally easier to buy than slide film. Foreign black and white film and high ASA (over 400) film are still hard to find. Disk and Polaroid film are generally available only in the more expensive joint-venture hotels and in Guangzhou's Friendship Store. Print film prices in China are about the same as they are in the United States. Chinese-
made black-and-white film is easily purchased and processed, and many hotels and local shops offer color-film-processing services. The Jianguo in Beijing has one-day service, and so does a shop in the China World Trade Center. The Friendship Hotel develops print film reasonably (Y35 for 36 color prints). The quality of film processing in China is uneven; scratching of negatives is common and the fluid used to coat prints may not be up to standard, causing color to fade faster. However, many long-term residents feel that it is safer to process exposed film than to carry it through airport inspections or to store it in extreme temperatures. Slide film is quite expensive in China. If you have it processed in China, be sure to tell the service personnel that you want the slides mounted. Some places process prepaid Kodachrome film, but it can also be sent to Hong Kong or Australia. Some post offices provide film mailers, and there have been few reported problems sending film out of China.
A word of caution about Polaroid cameras: they are still a novelty in China, and if you use them in public or crowded places, expect to receive a lot of attention and, possibly, requests from people wanting instant photos. In less touristed areas, people who have seen Polaroids work may expect you to produce instant photos for them even if you are using a standard camera. One researcher using his 35 mm camera in a remote region of China was followed for several blocks by the subjects of his photograph who demanded that he produce instant photos for them as a previous photographer had with a Polaroid.
Videocassettes are a special case. Technically, they cannot be taken in or out of the country without inspection and special permission; however, some researchers report that customs officials have not even bothered to examine videocassettes that they are carrying. Still, it is probably best to err on the side of caution. If you travel to Hong Kong during your stay in China to purchase photographic equipment, be sure to check with your host unit about customs regulations.
In the past, travelers were cautioned about taking pictures of airports, bridges, harbors, military facilities, soldiers, policemen, and wall posters. Sensitivities have eased considerably in recent years, but military facilities are generally off limits to foreigners and thus should not be photographed. Always ask permission before taking a picture of an individual. Taking pictures without asking permission is considered discourteous and has led to some incidents in which film has been confiscated. The elderly are particularly sensitive about being photographed, and some rural folk, who may never have seen a camera, may be frightened. Chinese parents, though, often enjoy having their children photographed, and many people find it fun to have their picture taken with a foreigner.
Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for many American residents in China, and both new and used ones are easy and inexpensive to purchase. A new bike costs Y340-800; used ones are about Y200. Ask around or check your local bulletin board if you want to buy a used one. Used bicycle shops are fairly common in larger cities. The quality of brands varies, and some carry a certain measure of status. Ask your Chinese and foreign friends for advice before you buy. All bicycles must be registered. Ask your host unit for guidance.
Bicycle repair shops—usually independent entrepreneurs who set up their tools along the street—are everywhere. Repairs are inexpensive: a complete overhaul may cost as little as Y10. Check any new or used bike carefully, however, before leaving the shop, and make certain the salespeople tighten all the parts. Buy a bicycle light and reflecting tape for the front and back fenders for safety. Many riders carry repair kits with lock washers of various sizes and other tools for repairs on the road. Theft is not uncommon in China, and Chinese-style bicycle locks are usually part of the purchase. Chains and locks are also sold in most bicycle stores. Some people recommend bringing a Kryptonite lock from the United States. Park in a bicycle lot to minimize the possibility of theft or confiscation by campus police, who sometimes pick up bikes not properly parked. If your bicycle is missing, check first with the police.
If your stay in China will be relatively short, you might want to rent a bicycle. In large cities, the rental shop is often found just opposite the Friendship Store; personnel at tourist hotels or local China International Travel Service offices can provide information on rentals in other areas.
When you register with the local public security bureau, you must provide passport-sized photos for library cards, swimming passes, and diplomas. You should take along ten or more extra copies of photos or have them done in China (the turnaround time is about two days).
Beijing has an eclectic selection of reading matter in the stores catering to foreigners, but rarely the latest bestsellers or much serious nonfiction. A selection of Western newspapers and magazines is offered in Friendship Stores and joint-venture hotels—The Asian Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, and Far Eastern Economic Review. Chinese-run English language bookstores in big cities often have a good selection of English-language novels as well as translations of Chinese novels, poetry, and art books. Some familiarity with Chinese classical and
popular writing is both informative and educational; it also provides a rich source of conversation with Chinese colleagues and friends.
One important publication for the foreign community is China Daily, which is published in English, distributed free in some hotels, and sold for Y0.30 in certain stores. China Daily notes restaurant specials and art exhibits; provides local entertainment schedules; reviews current theater, opera, and films; lists Radio Beijing and TV programs; publishes daily exchange rates; has a crossword puzzle and bridge column; and provides minimal coverage of Chinese and world news. The editorial section, in particular, is invaluable to the non-Chinese speaker because major pieces from the Chinese press are often translated there.
Board games can be fun for relaxation with friends, both Chinese and foreign; and word games like Scrabble and Password provide novel ways of teaching English. Puzzles, too, can be useful for long winter Sundays and they make thoughtful gifts for Chinese friends with families when you leave. If you are taking children with you, it is a good idea to pack their favorite toys and a few special decorations and treats for American holidays.
Purchasing gifts to take is a problem for the prospective China traveler. Gifts to Chinese colleagues and friends and to those who help out along the way—drivers, for example—must be chosen and given with care. Too lavish a gift will create embarrassment, and yet the days of giving ballpoint pens and picture postcards are long over. For any gift you are given, a reciprocal gift is expected. Most Chinese prefer gifts that are clearly both Western and "modern," but many of your Chinese acquaintances will have been abroad and have accumulated some of the trinkets that were once deemed satisfactory gifts. As one student warns, beware of underestimating the sophistication of your Chinese friends. Chinese drivers often smoke and generally appreciate American-made cigarettes, such as Marlboro, which can be bought in China. For advisers and academic colleagues, well-chosen books and scholarly materials are always appropriate, especially a copy of your own book or monograph. Scholars also appreciate Chinese calligraphy manuals, which are expensive in Chinese terms. Tapes of Western classical music are easier to buy in China now than they once were, but they are still a good gift. Art books and colorful calendars with scenes of U.S. life also are appropriate presents, as are English dictionaries and study guides and tapes for learning English.
Something with your school emblem is a good gift for academic hosts. One researcher took a beautifully printed greeting from the president of his university to his Chinese hosts, who enjoyed the calligraphy. If you are invited to a home for dinner, you might take along some
imported candy or wine, or cookies in a decorative tin, all of which can be found in Friendship Stores and hotels. On these occasions, presenting gifts to the women and children of the family is appropriate.
Many Chinese are avid stamp collectors and appreciate the variety of stamps produced in the United States. Bring a selection along and save those that come on your letters. One teacher who brought a Vogue pattern book for her own use discovered that her female students loved it and began sharing it among themselves. Posters of historic or scenic sites in the United States or poster reproductions of Western art are also good gifts. Intricate jigsaw puzzles are popular gifts for children. You should not be surprised, however, if the recipient does not open your gift immediately; it is customary to wait until later.
Taking friends, colleagues, or advisers out to dinner is still an excellent way to say thank you or repay hospitality. For more formal obligations involving officials at your institution, a Chinese banquet may be in order. See Chapter 3 for details of this ritual. Special friends and colleagues may appreciate being taken more informally to a local restaurant or even to a Western-style coffee shop in one of the joint-venture hotels. And if children are invited, an excursion to Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, or Pizza Hut can be a great adventure. Remember, too, that while China's economy is booming and many are getting rich, the intellectuals with whom you are ordinarily in contact will be on very tight budgets. Most cannot afford restaurants except on the most important occasions. Expect to treat, even in the most casual and informal circumstances, unless it is very clear that you have been specially invited as the guest.
As restrictions on contact with Chinese friends continue to ease, relations have become more casual. Today you can simply ask a Chinese friend for advice about gifts and courtesies. Your Chinese acquaintances, in turn, may well let you know what they want or need. But if some of the mystery has gone out of gift giving in China, courtesy demands that you nonetheless remain sensitive to the obligations and implications of a gift in that culture.
PREPARING FOR PROFESSIONAL LIFE
The chapters on research, teaching, and studying in China provide information that will help you decide what to bring to China for the work you will be doing there. This section offers some general suggestions.
Business cards printed, if possible, in both Chinese and English are essential in China. You will be handing them out and receiving them from almost everyone you meet. If you can have some made to bring with you to China, you will be able hand them out immediately. If not, business cards can be made inexpensively in China or Hong Kong.
A standard survey of Chinese history, guidebooks that describe your particular Chinese city, and up-to-date tourist handbooks are useful references to have in China. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of China, edited by Brian Hook and Denis Twitchett, is useful as is The China Guidebook by Kaplan, Sobin, and de Keijzer. Lonely Planet's China: A Travel Survival Kit is a favorite among travelers. Nagel's Encyclopedic Guide to China, a more detailed and scholarly work, offers historical information and is well worth the price ($65) in the opinion of some academic tourists. In Search of Old Beijing, by L.C. Arlington and William Lewisohn, and Juliet Bredon's Peking, published earlier this century, are fascinating guides to exploring the new city and noting the extensive architectural changes. Similar guides are available for other Chinese cities. Many of these guidebooks are now for sale in hotels and Friendship Stores in Beijing; see Appendix M for complete publishing details. A subscription to China Daily or Beijing Review for a few months before departure is good preparation for current events in China (both political and cultural). To order China Daily, contact:
15 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10013
Multistandard videocassette recorders (VCRs) are widely available but frequently are standard play (fast speed) only. Persons taking NTSC extended or long-play tapes to China may have difficulty. VHS is the most common format, although many institutions also have 3/4-inch Umatic or Beta formats. Equipment must be 220 volts, 50 Hz; as noted, 120-volt transformers are available in China but are expensive. The more serious consideration is frequency, since electricity in China is 50 Hz as opposed to 60 Hz. Those planning to take videocassettes to China are advised to inform their institutions early on and to inquire what sort of equipment is available. Moreover, Chinese customs officials may want to examine videotapes being taken into the country and may confiscate tapes deemed to be pornographic or politically sensitive.
Researchers should take an updated resume, off-prints of relevant publications and books, and copies of major papers (with Chinese abstracts, if possible) to distribute to colleagues in China. Most scholars with experience in China advise taking all printed materials that are essential for your research and writing, including refer-
ence works. Libraries and bookstores in China are treasure troves, but new publications are often sold out soon after they reach the stores and the availability of, and access to, library books is unpredictable. Even major secondary works in your field may not be available. And dictionaries published in China are sometimes hard to obtain, so take the ones you need.
Experienced bibliophiles have discovered that books can now be ordered direct from publishers based in China or obtained from distribution centers. Out-of-print books and back issues of journals sometimes can be found in used bookstores, especially those in out-of-the-way spots. Bookstores in Liulichang, the newly renovated antique district in Beijing, often are a good source of books on early China. Cities such as Xi'an and Lanzhou, for example, have stores devoted to ancient history, stocking items that are hard to find in the larger cities. Ask your Chinese colleagues for advice, and offer to share your finds with them. Many scholars report that they have borrowed books from Chinese academics who have better private collections in their field than some libraries. In any case, if you see a book that you need, it is wise to buy it immediately.
Periodicals in Chinese may be ordered at the post office. A useful guide, arranged by subject, to newspapers and periodicals published in China is available from:
China International Book Trading Corporation (Guoji Shudian)
P.O. Box 2820
If equipment is essential to your research, write ahead for information on available equipment and ask for precise specifications. Some researchers have been supplied with manual or electric typewriters, whereas others have no access to school equipment. Only a few of the people surveyed for this book were able to use computers supplied by their host institutions. If you will need a tape recorder, it is best to bring your own. Hong Kong is a good place to purchase excellent tape recorders at reasonable prices. Calculators are easy to buy in China. If you will be in a small town or village and gathering and copying materials is essential for your work, you may want to take a portable copier with a heavy-duty transformer. Canon's Personal Copier series comes highly recommended. Duplicating facilities are far more available in Chinese cities today than a few years ago, although most shops are located outside university gates and sometimes a good distance away.
Duplicating costs start at Y0.30 per page, and if you are teaching, your department may have only a minuscule budget for copying materials. (See also the previous section on office supplies and machines.)
Scientists whose research relies on specialized equipment should be particularly attentive to the question of what equipment to bring. Although some of China's laboratories are very well equipped, the quality varies widely. Check whether the laboratory in which you will work can meet your specific needs. A fuller discussion of this issue appears in Chapter 4.
If you will be working with interpreters, a dictionary that specializes in the technical terminology of your discipline can be of great use. If you will need audiovisual equipment, write ahead to your hosts to let them know exactly what you need. Some organizations have overhead projectors, but you should bring your own transparencies and marking pens. Most also have slide projectors, although screens apparently are scarcer and quite often the projectors are not in working order. With equipment, then, as with all other aspects of life in China, you can only try to plan ahead—and then be patient when your plans fail and grateful when they work. In such matters, a sense of humor is invaluable.
In addition to the guidebooks on China mentioned earlier, an excellent book, specifically for teaching in China, is written by two Americans, Tani Barlow and Donald Lowe, who taught literature and history in Shanghai from 1981 to 1982. Their thoughtful and detailed account, Teaching China's Lost Generation: Foreign Experts in the People's Republic of China, is well worth reading.
Most returned teachers recommended that you write ahead to your host unit for details on what books and equipment will be available, because the availability of books and equipment varies considerably from school to school. ''Key" universities with substantial government funding ordinarily have better teaching aids than smaller, locally run schools. The teachers surveyed for this handbook taught a variety of subjects in China, and they all strongly urged prospective teachers to take with them as many books and materials as possible. There is in general a serious shortage of English-language books in China, and books in fields that have only recently been introduced, such as law and management, are in particularly short supply, though many Western works are now being translated into Chinese. Many university libraries have difficulty keeping their English-language collections up to date, and student access to these holdings is often limited. Although some department libraries have excellent collections, the books are often reserved for faculty rather than student use. It is probably best to take important books in your field with you and plan to donate them to your
Chinese host institution when you leave. If you will be teaching English, you should also obtain information about the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and take TOEFL books and tapes with you. Certain U.S. or community funding agencies offer grants for books. If you apply early enough, you may be able to have materials sent ahead for use in your courses. The Fulbright lectureship includes a book allowance with which to purchase materials; check with the U.S. Embassy and with consular USIS staff.
One way to circumvent the shortage of books is to photocopy or ditto articles. But don't count on it. Duplicating facilities are limited at most institutions; some have only mimeograph machines and photocopiers are still scarce within institutions. In large cities, photocopying services are easy to find. Even if your institution has a copier, your funds for copying may be limited and you may have to pay for copying yourself. Moreover, with such heavy demands on copiers and limited repair service, teachers report that their university duplicating machine is often out of order. If you plan to use unbound materials, you should either take multiple copies with you or plan to have them copied at a hotel or neighborhood copy shop at a cost of Y0.30 or more per page.
Some teachers have typed course assignments on ditto masters and made direct transfer stencils of materials which were then duplicated in China. Duplicated articles about current events from The New York Times, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, and other periodicals are avidly read by students and are a good form of language instruction because of their sophisticated vocabulary. You may also want to clip articles of current interest from magazines and newspapers to use as the basis for class discussions. Chinese students are accustomed to the lack of textbooks. They take meticulous notes, and if lectures are concise and well constructed, they can manage quite well without textbooks, although they often use their own reference books in Chinese to supplement English lecture notes.
Information about higher education in the United States is always welcome in China, and your hosts and students will appreciate any catalogs, course syllabi, or descriptive material that you can share with them. Many will be looking for ways to study in the United States and you can expect your students to call on you for advice and help. The U.S. government has placed collections of educational reference materials at 18 sites in China; the locations of these collections and the list of their materials are in Appendix P. U.S. colleges and universities have been requested to send their catalogs to these sites.
Finally, regarding books to take to China, teachers who have come back from China recommend the following: as many basic reference books as possible, several good dictionaries and encyclopedias, your
favorite books at various levels on the subject matter you will be teaching, anthologies of American and British literature, Bartlett's Quotations, references on American culture, a copy of the U.S. Constitution, novels, a good atlas, standard grammar books, maps of the United States and the world in English, and a world almanac. As one teacher put it, "I can't think of anything not to take, except maybe pornographic literature. That is frowned upon, but the Chinese are remarkably open about what you bring for your own reading or for sharing with Chinese friends."
If you plan to use audiovisual aids, find out from the host institution if they have what you need. Some institutions do have overhead projectors, but teachers have found that at times their classes were too large to use transparencies as a teaching aid. Slide projectors are fairly common and teachers do recommend taking slides to use in classes. Also, reel-to-reel tape recorders are frequently available. Cassette recorders are becoming more and more common, but high-quality tapes are still difficult to find. Some teachers found that they could arrange for films and videotapes to be shown, but if the department for which they work does not have the necessary equipment, it may be charged for the use of such equipment. Also, both the equipment and the rooms for viewing must be reserved in advance, and in some cases, tapes must be submitted to institution authorities to be reviewed one week in advance of the showing.
If your institution does not have the necessary equipment, consider taking your own, such as a slide projector with transformers, if you think it worth the effort. Be sure to read the preceding sections on equipment and review the customs regulations on tapes and films. If you plan to donate equipment to your Chinese institution when you leave, be certain when you arrive to have your unit register it with Chinese customs officials as a duty-free educational item.
There is a great deal of curiosity in China about life in the United States, and American teachers are often asked to give talks about American culture. You should be prepared to talk knowledgeably about a variety of topics—from current slang and films to intricate workings of the U.S. Congress. Take along any references that might be useful to you in answering wide-ranging questions. An almanac, according to one teacher, was "worth its weight in gold—we used ours every day"; a good paperback English dictionary and thesaurus are handy and make appropriate gifts for Chinese friends when you leave. The press and cultural section of the U.S. Embassy has a library that can be tapped, but its holdings are limited. You may want to bring slides and photographs showing various aspects of your life in the United States. For example, shots of your city, school, family, and holiday celebrations, as
well as pictures taken in your neighborhood, such as supermarkets, city and street scenes, farms, parks, schools, subways, and airports can be of great interest to Chinese students who have had little opportunity to glimpse everyday life abroad. Returned teachers also stress balancing "the good and the bad" when discussing life in the United States.