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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet

Tips for Travellers to China


The People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) has a communist government. It is one of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. Modern tourist facilities are not widely available, except in major cities.

About China

China is the oldest continuous major world civilization, with records dating back over 3,500 years. Successive dynasties developed a system of bureaucratic control which gave the agrarian-based Chinese an advantage over neighboring nomadic and hill cultures. Chinese civilization was further strengthened by the development of a common written language that bridged the gaps among the country's many local languages and dialects.

There are several major Chinese dialects and many subdialects. The Beijing dialect, often called Mandarin (or Putonghua), is taught in all schools and is the medium of government. Almost two-thirds of Han Chinese are native speakers of Mandarin; the rest, concentrated in southwest and southeast China, speak one of the other major Chinese dialects.

China's population in mid-1995 was over 1.2 billion, with an estimated growth rate of 1.2%. The largest ethnic group is the Han Chinese, who constitute about 93% of the total population. The remaining 7% are Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (9 million), Hui (8 million), Miao (8 million), Uygur (7 million), Yi (7 million), Tibetan (5 million), Mongol (5 million), and Korean (1 million).

China is full of natural and man-made wonders. Its great rivers include the Yellow and the Yangtze. There are also many mountain ranges including the Himalayas along the southern border of Tibet and the Kunlun Mountains stretching east and west along Tibet's northern edge. Part of the Gobi desert is located in China's Inner Mongolia.

China's most popular man-made wonder is the Great Wall. The Great Wall was built in the 3rd century B.C. (completed in 204 B.C.). It extends for about 1500 miles from Gansu province to the Bohai Gulf. The wall averages 20 to 50 feet high and 15 to 25 feet thick. The actual length, including branches and windings, is more than 2000 miles.

Consular Information Program

For up-to-date travel information on the P.R.C., see the Department of State's Consular Information Sheet for China. Consular Information Sheets cover such matters as health conditions, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security conditions, drug penalties, and areas of instability. In addition, the State Department issues Travel Warnings when we recommend Americans defer travel to a country because of unsafe conditions. Travel Warnings are under continuous review by the Department of State. Before you depart for a country that has a Travel Warning, make certain that you have the most recent revision of the Warning. The Department of State also issues Public Announcements. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about relatively short-term and/or trans-national conditions which would pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. At the time of publication, there were no Travel Warnings nor were there any Public Announcements issued for travel to China.

There are several ways to access Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements. You can listen to them 24-hours a day by calling 202-647-5225 from a touchtone phone. You can receive copies of them by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Overseas Citizens Services, Room 4800, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4818. (Write the name of the requested country or countries on the outside of the envelope.) You can also find Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings at the 13 regional passport agencies and at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. The information can also be accessed through an airline or travel agent's computer reservation system, the Bureau of Consular Affairs' 24- hour automated fax system at 202/647-3000, or through many computer bulletin boards, including the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). You may call the CABB on modem number 301-946-4400. The login is travel; the password is info.

Entry and Other Visa Requirements

To enter the People's Republic of China, a U.S. citizen must have a valid U.S. passport and P.R.C. visa Most tourist visas are valid for only one entry. Travelers required a new visa for additional entries into China. Chinese authorities fine those who arrive without a visa up to 5,000 renminbi (about $600 U.S.) at the port of entry and may not allow them to enter China.

An application for a business visa should include an invitation from the applicant's host or counterpart in China.

Visas for tour group members are often obtained by the travel agent as part of the tour package. You may book China tours through a number of travel agencies and airlines in the United States and abroad. You can find advertisements for these tours in newspapers or magazines, or you may contact the China National Tourist Office at: 60 E. 42nd Street, Suite 3126, New York, NY 10165; (212) 867-0271.

Tourist visas for individuals are routinely issued at Chinese embassies or consulates abroad. Expedited processing is often available for an increased fee or by working through a Chinese tour operator.

Apply for a visa at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., or at a Chinese consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. (Addresses are listed at the end of this pamphlet.) At this time, the cost of a visa for China is $30 (not including fees for expedited handling). To apply, each person must send an application form, valid passport, two photographs and the fee. U.S. citizens applying for visas outside the United States may be requested to fill out visa application forms both in English and in Chinese.

Whether you visit on your own or with a tour, allow several weeks for visa processing. The Chinese Embassy and consulates in the United States often require 10 working days to process visas.

In addition to the requirements above, long-term visitors to China may be required to provide evidence of an AIDS test. Negative HIV exam results are required for students, teachers, and visiting scholars who plan to stay 9 months or more and for business persons who plan to stay over a year. If this applies to you, you may have the medical exam done in the United States using blank forms issued by the Chinese Embassy or a consulate. However, the test results must indicate the test was done by a government facility such as your states health department or, if done at a private health facility, the results must be notarized by a notary public. Attach your photograph to the test form. The notary seal should be applied to the photograph and it should run off on to the page.

For individuals visiting Hong Kong en route, tours to China depart regularly from that city and may be booked through China Travel Service, LTD., 77 Queens Road, Central, Hong Kong (tel: 2525-2284, fax: 2541-9777) or 27-33 Nathan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong (tel: 2315-7149, fax: 2721-7757). (Cable address: TRAVEL BANK.) For a handling fee, individual visas for travel originating in Hong Kong may be obtained through these agencies in two working days. If you have made travel arrangements and wish to obtain your visa on your own, apply to the Visa Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, 5th Floor, Low Block, 26 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong.

Note: Hong Kong is currently a British Crown Colony. It will become a special administrative region of China on July 1, 1997.


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