Tourism in China - History

Tourism in China - History

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China's Earthquake History

While no sustained threat of earthquakes exists, China does have a long history of devastating natural phenomena, including earthquakes. In fact, the site of world's most devastating earthquake took place near Shaanxi. However, this was in the year 1556 during the Ming Dynasty and has yet to be rivaled in China or elsewhere. The world's third and fourth most deadly earthquakes also happened in China in 1976 and 1920 in the cities of Tangshan and Haiyuan respectively.

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Book Description

Tourism in China has grown rapidly since the country started implementing its open-door policy in 1978. Tourism development is now an essential agenda item for the Chinese government's plan for economic & social growth. Policy and policy-making for tourism therefore provides the essential background to understand tourism development in China.

This is the first book to set the development of tourism in China since 1949 in its policy context. Underpinned by a strong conceptual framework, this systematic study of China contributes to an in-depth understanding of how public policy-making for tourism works and how it affects the development of tourism in the real world. The text explores tourism policy during three distinct leadership periods since creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949: Mao Zedong (1949-1978) Deng Xiaoping (1978-1997) and the Collective Leadership Era (1997-the present). The attitudes and values of leaders and central government agencies towards tourism are considered, as well as the interactions of ideological orthodoxies, socio-economic conditions and institutions in their influence on national policy-making and tourism development. A separate chapter is devoted to policy-making in China’s two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Taiwan due to its political separation from the Mainland, and Tibet, given its distinctive characteristics. Drawing on China’s experience over sixty years the book concludes with both theoretical and practical implications for tourism policy-making.

This timely volume offers important insights into China’s Tourism as well as contributing to a wider pattern of debates about the respective roles of government policy and the market in the past and future. The material draws on exclusive in-depth interviews with key informants in China and on government documents and official sources not generally available in the international literature. This will be of interest to higher level students, academics & researchers within Tourism, Policy studies, Politics, Geography and China Studies.

Red tourism reinforces Yan'an's place in history

A scene from the four-act drama Yan'an Nursery, which is regularly staged in Yan'an, Shaanxi province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The former base of the CPC during its formative years has become a huge hit with visitors from across the country

Yan'an, a city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi and the cradle of the Chinese revolution, is a popular Red tourism destination with a wealth of revolutionary sites.

During this year's Labor Day holiday, interest in Red tourism saw people visiting museums and revolutionary sites to recall the heroic deeds of the martyrs.

A report by WeChat said more than 40 percent of visitors to Red tourism sites during the holiday were born in the 1990s and 2000s.

Yan'an has worked hard in recent years to upgrade its revolutionary scenic areas and find creative ways to promote Red tourism and enhance people's travel experiences.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the government recently unveiled 100 classic Red tourism routes divided into three kinds: those that focus on the CPC's history and struggle those that illustrate China's scientific and technological breakthroughs and those that emphasize the country's achievements in poverty alleviation, rural vitalization and construction of an ecological civilization (a CPC-led concept of sustainable development).

According to the China Tourism Academy, more than half the tourists surveyed had noticed the use of innovative methods in Red tourism, such as creative settings in scenic areas, innovative introductions and communications, and the use of advanced technologies.

Official data show that from 2014 to 2019, the number of such trips rose from 140 million to 1.41 billion, suggesting that people are increasingly eager to learn about the country's revolutionary history.

According to the Yan'an government, the city saw more than 40.25 million tourist visits in 2016, with the figure rising to 73.08 million in 2019.

Meanwhile, over the same period, the city's tourism revenue rose from 22.8 billion yuan ($3.5 billion), to 49.5 billion yuan.

The Boom in Mass Tourism in the 19th Century

Organised group holidays offering an all-inclusive price that reduced the travellers' costs were an innovation of the 1840s. Thomas Cook (1808-1892), a brilliant entrepreneur from England, is seen as their inventor 35 and thus the pioneer of commercialised mass tourism. His first all-inclusive holiday in 1841 took 571 people from Leicester to Loughborough and supplied both meals and brass music. From 1855, Cook offered guided holidays abroad, for example in 1863 to Switzerland. These catered to a mixed clientele, from heads of state and princes to average representatives of the middle, lower middle and working classes. Cook, inspired by clear socio-political motives, wanted to use Sunday excursions to tempt workers out of the misery and alcoholism of the cities into the green of the countryside. He had more success with inexpensive all-inclusive holidays, often to foreign destinations, for the middle class. His introduction of vouchers for hotels and tourist brochures was highly innovative. 36

Cook's pioneering role in the emergence of mass tourism is widely recognised. He influenced the travel agencies later opened in Germany, above all those associated with the names of Rominger ( Stuttgart , 1842), Schenker & Co. (München, 1889) and the Stangen Brothers ( Breslau , 1863). Carl Stangen (1833�) organised holidays through Europe, then from 1873 to Palestine and Egypt, before extending them to the whole world in 1878. Over this period, the travel agency was able to establish itself as a specialised institution. It channelled ever greater demands for relaxation and variety among broadening social strata: from the 1860s, travelling became a type of "popular movement" that spread throughout society. The German writer Theodor Fontane (1819�) remarked in 1877: "Zu den Eigentümlichkeiten unserer Zeit gehört das Massenreisen. Sonst reisten bevorzugte Individuen, jetzt reist jeder und jede . Alle Welt reist . Der moderne Mensch, angestrengter, wie er wird, bedarf auch größerer Erholung". 37

The opening of the Alps to tourists was an equally important development of the 19th century.  It was preceded by an affinity for nature acquired under the influence of the Enlightenment and Romanticism that sentimentalised the mountains. This created a flock of what would soon be called tourists made up of researchers, nobles, artists, painters, writers and other members of the educated classes, as well as the upwardly mobile middle classes, who followed Albrecht von Haller (1708�), Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (1740�) and Rousseau in their search for natural beauty and the mountains. This romanticisation of alpine harmony replaced the mediaeval fear of the mountains and underwent a "touristisation" over the 19th century. Two groups propelled this process – the aristocracy and the new middle class. The pioneers were enthusiastic British mountaineers who pursued the exclusive sport in Switzerland, charging up the summit and encouraging the development of infrastructure (the construction of hotels, Alpine huts, mountain railways, Anglican chapels and so on) through their continues presence, as well as leaving behind the traces of a cultural transfer. One interpretation of this is that "die als Eroberungen ausgegebenen Bergbesteigungen nichts anderes als die Fortführung imperialer Politik mit anderen Mitteln darstellten, zunächst in den westlichen Teilen, dann . in den östlichen Teilen der Alpen, danach zunehmend in Hochgebirgsregionen außerhalb Europa, vor allem in Asien" 38

Mountaineering associations founded across the continent led the way. Significantly, the first was the Alpine Club (1857) in London, followed by the Austrian Alpenverein (1862), the Swiss Alpenclub (1863), the Club Alpino Italiano (1863) and the German Alpenverein (1869). Most of these subsequent associations set themselves broader goals than the British club, which chose to remain an aristocratic sports body. The mountaineering associations soon acquired popularity, although they were somewhat conservative, and their impact was enormous. They produced club reports, almanacs and guidebooks to routes, while membership increased considerably and the infrastructure (hotels, bread and breakfasts, huts, guide, paths and cable cars) was extended. The mountaineering associations and their branches soon stimulated a mass middle-class mountaineering movement that initially centred on Switzerland. 39 A tendency developed whereby the movement increasingly encompassed lower social classes, at the turn of the century finally including proletarian tourist associations such as the Naturfreunde ("The Friends of Nature" – Vienna, 1895) and later the loosely associated organisations of Der Wandervogel ("The Migratory Bird" – Berlin , 1905). Thus, the enthusiasm for mountaineering underwent first a "bourgeoisification" and then a "proletariatisation". This early social tourism was characterised by a new collective ethos mixed with non-commercial elements that have been understood as the precursors of "soft tourism". 40 These intermingled with distinct forms of sociability, the conscious appreciation of the environment and consideration for the local population, countryside and cultural assets.

U.S. Embassy Beijing

No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600
+(86)(10) 8531-4000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(10) 8531-3300
The Embassy consular district includes the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin and the provinces/autonomous regions of Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, and Xinjiang.
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U.S. Consulate General Chengdu - Operations Suspended
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This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang (Tibet) and Yunnan, as well as the municipality of Chongqing.

U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou
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Guangzhou 510623
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Fax: +(86)(20) 3814-5572
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This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Fujian.

U.S. Consulate General Shanghai
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Fax: +(86)(21) 6148-8266
Email: [email protected]
This consular district includes Shanghai municipality and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

U.S. Consulate General Shenyang
No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District,
Shenyang 110003

Telephone: +(86)(24) 2322-1198
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This consular district includes: the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning.

The U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan
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Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(86)(10) 8531-4000
Fax: +(86)(027) 8555-7761
Please note that Wuhan does not provide regularly scheduled consular services. Contact the Embassy in Beijing for consular assistance.
[email protected]

Destination Description

See the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on China for information on U.S. - China relations.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

  • Obtain a visa prior to arrival and have a passport with at least six months' validity remaining. The lack of either will result in a fine and immediate deportation.
  • Apply for a ten-year multiple entry visa, useful for repeated travel, or trips to Hong Kong or Macau with returns to China.
  • If you plan to work in China, be sure to obtain the correct visa. Working in China is not permissible on a student or tourist visa, and may result in detention, criminal charges and deportation.
  • You must have a valid visa to exit China and you must leave China before the expiration of the listed duration of stay.

Lack of a visa, having an expired visa, or overstaying your visa will result in detention and/or fines.

  • Apply for a visa extension from your local Entry/Exit Bureau before attempting to leave the country. Do not expect your request to be expedited, so apply ahead of time.
  • Visit the website of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for current visa information as well as information on China’s immigration and nationality laws.

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR):

The TAR requires special permits for tourist travel, most often obtained through a Chinese travel agent. If you do enter a restricted area without the requisite permit, you could be fined, taken into custody, and deported for illegal entry. To learn more about specific entry requirements for Tibet or other restricted areas, check with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of China.

  • When transiting certain international airports, you may stay in mainland China without a Chinese visa.
  • The duration of allowed stay and how broadly you may travel varies by region.
  • Transiting without a visa requires a valid passport, a visa for your onward destination (if necessary), and an onward ticket from the same location.
  • You must inform your airline upon check-in and get an endorsement stamp at the immigration desk before leaving the airport.
  • Consult the Chinese Embassy/consulate for a current list of eligible airports and more detailed guidance.
  • Chinese border officials have the authority to deny foreign travelers’ entry to China without warning or explanation. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates cannot intervene on your behalf if denied entry to China.
  • Failure to register with the police within 24 hours of arrival in the country could result in fines and deportation. You can register with hotel staff or the local police station.
  • Local regulations require foreigners to carry valid passports and Chinese visas or residence permits at all times.
  • Entry and exit requirements are strictly enforced, as are restrictions on activities allowed by any particular visa class.
  • Police, school administrators, transportation officials, and hotel staff may check your visa to make sure you have not overstayed. If you overstay your visa’s duration of stay, you may be denied service by hotels, airports and train stations, as well as face fines and detention.
  • If you encounter problems in Tibet, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide assistance, as the Chinese government does not usually authorize U.S. government personnel to travel there, even to provide consular assistance to U.S. citizens.

Dual Nationality: The Chinese government does not recognize dual nationality. If you are a dual national of the United States and China, the Chinese government will usually not permit the U.S. Embassy to provide consular assistance to you unless you entered China on a U.S. passport with a valid Chinese visa. Regardless of your travel documents, if you are a dual national, or otherwise have ethnic or historical ties to China, it is possible that Chinese authorities will assert that you are a Chinese citizen and deny your access to U.S. consular representatives if you are detained.

Because the Chinese government does not recognize dual citizenship, dual U.S.-Chinese citizens may face a number of hurdles when seeking public benefits in China. U.S. citizens who are also citizens of China may experience difficulty in accessing benefits in China such as enrollment in public schools, treatment at public hospitals and clinics, or obtaining Chinese identity and citizenship documents, such as passports. U.S.-Chinese dual citizens must navigate conflicting aspects of Chinese nationality, which the Chinese government may inconsistently apply.

If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen or have a possible claim to Chinese citizenship, and you are traveling to China, inform yourself about Chinese law and practices relating to determination and loss of Chinese citizenship. Chinese authorities generally consider a child born in China to at least one Chinese parent to be a Chinese citizen, even if the child was issued a U.S. passport at the time of birth. If you have or had a claim to Chinese citizenship and your child is born in China, prior to departing China with your child, contact the local Public Security Bureau and/or Entry-Exit Bureau for information on obtaining a travel document. If you have or had a claim to Chinese citizenship and your child is born in the United States, please contact the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for specific information on the documentation requirements to bring your child to China.

Safety and Security

For most visitors, China remains a very safe country. Petty street crime is the most common safety concern for U.S. citizens. Training, capability, and responsiveness of Chinese authorities varies by region and even city. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General have no law enforcement authority and may not represent U.S. citizens in either criminal or civil legal matters. To ensure your safety and security in China, you should:

  • Take routine safety precautions.
  • Pay attention to surroundings.
  • Report any concerns to the local police.
  • Call “110,” the local equivalent to “911” however, very few English speakers staff this hotline.

Violent crime is not common in China, however:

  • Demonstrations may quickly turn violent.
  • Domestic unrest and terrorism can occur.
  • Business disputes between U.S. citizens and Chinese business partners can sometimes result in physical confrontation or kidnapping. Go straight to the police if you feel threatened or relocate to a public place.
  • Be alert to criminal schemes, such as:
    • “Tourist Tea” Scams: Young Chinese invite visitors out to tea and leave them with an exorbitant bill.
    • Phone Scams: We have received reports that some individuals within China have received telephone calls where the callers pose as police officers and request a funds transfer to resolve an identity theft or money laundering investigation. In these cases, DO NOT WIRE any money. If you receive any suspicious calls or requests, contact the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) to verify the caller’s identity.
    • “Black Cabs”: Be cautious when using taxi services, especially at airports. Avoid unlicensed “black cabs,” insist that the driver use the meter, and get a receipt. Have the name of your destination written in Chinese characters and ask the driver to remove the bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay.
    • Counterfeit Currency: Counterfeit currency is a significant concern in China. Carrying small bills or using exact change, particularly in taxis, can help protect you. Use only ATMs at trusted financial institutions.

    If you already have been victim of a scam, catalogue as many details as possible, including names, telephone and bank numbers, and email and IP addresses file a police report, and inform the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. consulate. Please see the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

    Victims of Crime: Report crimes to the local police and contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

    • Help you find appropriate medical care.
    • Assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
    • Contact relatives or friends on your behalf.
    • Explain the local criminal justice process in general terms.
    • Provide a list of local attorneys.
    • Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
    • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution.
    • Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home.
    • Replace a stolen or lost passport.

    Lost or Stolen Passports: If your passport is stolen, you must apply for both a new passport at the U.S. Embassy or consulate, and a new Chinese visa. File a police report at the nearest police station right away. You may also be directed to file a report at the local Exit/Entry Bureau.

    Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy or consulate for assistance. Domestic violence in China is rarely recognized as a crime.

    Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders are generally unable to access areas outside of major cities to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

    Local Laws & Special Circumstances

    Criminal Penalties: You are subject to Chinese laws. If you violate Chinese laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

    Furthermore, some crimes are prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

    • If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or the nearest consulate immediately. See our webpage for further information.
    • The Chinese must notify a U.S. consular officer within four days however, this does not always occur in a timely manner.
    • A consular officer may be the only authorized visitor during your initial detention period.
    • Bail is rarely granted.
    • Detention may last many months before a trial.
    • The U.S. Embassy or Consulate is unable to represent you in a legal matter.
    • Travelers to China should enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and you may wish to have someone contact the Embassy or nearest consulate if you are detained.
    • Please see the section on DUAL NATIONALITY for the limits on consular notification and access to dual nationals.

    The Chinese legal system can be opaque and the interpretation and enforcement of local laws arbitrary. The judiciary does not enjoy independence from political influence. U.S. citizens traveling or residing in China should be aware of varying levels of scrutiny to which they will be subject from Chinese local law enforcement and state security.

    Certain provisions of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China – such as “social order” crimes (Article 293) and crimes involving “endangering state security” and “state secrets” (Article 102 to 113) – are ill-defined and can be interpreted by the authorities arbitrarily and situationally. Information that may be common knowledge in other countries could be considered a “state secret” in China, and information can be designated a “state secret” retroactively.

    Drug and Alcohol Enforcement:

    Chinese law enforcement authorities have little tolerance for illegal drugs, including marijuana. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in China are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, or the death penalty. Police regularly conduct unannounced drug tests on people suspected of drug use and have been known to enter a bar or nightclub and subject all patrons to immediate drug testing. Police may force you to provide a urine, blood, or hair follicle sample on short notice. A positive finding, even if the drug was legal elsewhere or consumed prior to arriving in China, can lead to immediate detention, fines, deportation, and/or a ban from re-entering China.

    China also has strict laws against driving under the influence of alcohol that can lead to immediate detention on a criminal charge.


    Assisted Reproductive Technology: In vitro fertilization (IVF) is widely and legally practiced. Chinese law, however, strictly forbids surrogacy, and surrogacy contracts will not be considered valid. The use of reproductive technology for medical research and profit is strictly controlled.

    Contracts and Commercial Disputes: Before entering into a commercial or employment contract in China, have it reviewed by legal counsel both in the United States and in China. The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service can assist you in identifying and vetting business contacts and opportunities, but may not intervene in contract disputes. Many U.S. citizens have reported difficulty getting their contracts enforced by Chinese courts or being forced out of profitable joint-ventures without opportunity to secure legal recourse in China.

    Counterfeit Goods: Do not buy counterfeit or pirated goods. The bootlegs are illegal in the United States and you may also be breaking local law by purchasing them.

    Cruise Ship Passengers: Click here for safety information and travel advice.

    Earthquakes: Earthquakes occur throughout China. Check here for information about earthquake preparedness.

    English/Secondary School Teachers: English teachers in China frequently report employment disputes which can result in questioning by local authorities, termination, lost wages, confiscation of passports, forced eviction from housing, and even threats of violence. Please see the Teaching in China Guide on the U.S. Embassy's website.

    Exit/Travel Bans: Business disputes, court orders to pay a settlement, or government investigations into both criminal and civil issues may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved. Even individuals and their family members who are not directly involved, or even aware of these proceedings, can be subject to an exit ban. Additionally, some local businesspeople who feel that they have been wronged by a foreign business partner may hire "debt collectors” to harass, intimidate, and sometimes physically detain foreign business partners or family members in hopes of collecting the debt. The U.S. Embassy or consulate can provide a list of local attorneys who serve U.S. clients, but otherwise are unable to intervene in civil cases. Local law enforcement authorities are generally unwilling to become involved in what they consider private business matters, and may not provide the individual who has been barred from leaving China with any written notice of the exit ban.

    Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:

    LGBTI Travelers: Same sex marriages are not legally recognized in China and local authorities will not provide marriage certificates to same-sex couples. There are no civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, though homosexuality has been decriminalized. Prejudices and discrimination still exist in many parts of the country. There are growing LGBTI communities in some of China’s largest cities and violence against LGBTI individuals in China is relatively rare. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.

    Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): In January 2017, China implemented a law regulating the operations of foreign NGOs in China. NGOs and their employees should ensure they are complying with all relevant statutory requirements, particularly if working in sensitive areas or fields. Additionally, the Chinese government announced sanctions on five U.S.-based NGOs in December 2019.

    North Korea: Do not travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) due to the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals. For further information, consult the North Korea Country Information webpage and the Travel Advisory for North Korea.

    Political and Religious Activity: Participating in unauthorized political or religious activities, including participating in public protests or sending private electronic messages critical of the government, may result in detention and Chinese government-imposed restrictions on future travel to China. Although China’s constitution permits freedom of religious belief, government officials are increasing pressure on domestic religious activity. The U.S. Mission to China has observed an increase in the number of U.S. citizens being interrogated, detained, and/or forced to leave the country in connection with real or perceived religious proselytization. U.S. citizens have been detained and/or expelled for distributing religious literature, including Bibles, or engaging in unauthorized religious meetings. If you bring religious literature with you, Chinese law dictates that it be a “reasonable amount” for your personal use. If you attempt to bring larger quantities, the literature will likely be confiscated and you may be fined, detained, or deported.

    Social Insurance: China has a social insurance system to which foreigners who work in China must contribute. When you sign an employment contract, you must apply for a social insurance number, and it is important that your employer work with you to comply with the regulations. Please check the official website for updated information.

    Social Media: Social media accounts are widely monitored in China. Local authorities may use information they deem critical, controversial, or that might involve illegal activity against both the poster of the material and the host of the social media forum under Chinese law. Individuals have also been held responsible for the content that others place within social media spaces they control, such as the comments section under a post or within a group chat that an individual controls.

    Special Scrutiny of Foreign Citizens: On occasion, citizens of the United States visiting or resident in China have been interrogated or detained for reasons said to be related to “state security.” In such circumstances, you could face arrest, detention, or an exit ban prohibiting your departure from China for a prolonged period. Dual U.S.-Chinese nationals and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be at a higher risk of facing such special scrutiny. Information about dual nationality can be found on our website.

    Surveillance and Monitoring: Security personnel carefully watch foreign visitors and may place you under surveillance. Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage, and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge. Security personnel have been known to detain and deport U.S. citizens sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

    Transferring Money to/From China: China’s regulatory environment includes tightening capital outflow controls that can severely impact one’s ability to move money out of the country. Wire transfers may only be available to those who have an active bank account in China. Ask your local China bank location for more information. The U.S. Department of State may be able to help transfer funds to a destitute U.S citizen overseas through our office in Washington, D.C. to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. More information on this option is available here.

    Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: U.S. citizens with mobility disabilities may face challenges while traveling in China. Sidewalks often do not have curb cuts and many streets can be crossed only via pedestrian bridges or underpasses accessible by staircase. Assistive technologies for blind people and those with other vision disabilities are unreliable, and access to elevators in public buildings can be restricted. In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one accessible toilet.

    Typhoons: The southeast coast of China is subject to strong typhoons and tropical storms, usually from July through September. For current information, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu and the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

    Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.

    Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region: Extraordinary security measures are in place through the region. Authorities may impose curfews and restrictions on short notice. They also engage in invasive surveillance techniques against individuals. Expect significant travel delays, avoid gatherings and demonstrations, always carry ID, and follow the instructions of local authorities. Travelers with ethnic ties to the region may experience special restrictions, discrimination, and even arbitrary detention.


    Quality of Care: The standards of medical care in China are not equivalent to those in the United States. Even in private hospitals or public hospitals with well-equipped wards, English-speaking patients frequently encounter difficulty due to cultural, language, and regulatory differences. Rural areas have rudimentary facilities and inadequate staffing. Additionally, Rh-negative blood may be difficult to obtain the blood type of the general Asian populace is Rh positive.

    Payment and Insurance: Chinese ambulances are often slow to arrive, and most do not have sophisticated medical equipment or trained responders. Cash payment for services is often required prior to treatment, including emergency cases. Travelers will be asked to post a deposit prior to admission to cover the expected cost of treatment. Hospitals in major cities may accept credit cards. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in China maintain lists of local English-speaking doctors and hospitals.

    We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

    Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

    Medication: If traveling with prescription medication, check with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to ensure the medication is legal in China. Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with the prescription. Many commonly-used U.S. drugs and medications are not available in China, and counterfeit, low-quality knockoffs are prevalent. If you try to have medications sent to you from outside China, you may have problems getting them released by Chinese Customs and/or you may have to pay high customs duties.

    Air Quality: Air pollution is a significant problem in many locations. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang make air quality data available to the U.S. citizen community. The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection provides its own air quality data for cities throughout China.

    Most roads and towns in Tibet, Qinghai, parts of Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 10,000 feet. Take appropriate precautions to prepare for and be alert to altitude sickness.

    Disease: The following diseases are prevalent:

    • influenza
    • typhoid
    • measles
    • hepatitis A
    • hepatitis B
    • tuberculosis

    Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    For further health information:

    Travel and Transportation

    Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic safety is generally poor and driving can be dangerous, though rules, regulations, and conditions vary greatly throughout China.

    Traffic can be chaotic and largely unregulated and the rate of accidents, including fatal accidents, is among the highest in the world. Motorcycle and bicycle accidents are frequent and often deadly. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, and you should show extreme caution when walking in traffic, even in marked crosswalks. Child safety seats are not widely available.

    • You may not drive in China using a U.S. or international driver’s license.
    • You can apply for a Chinese driver’s license if you have a resident permit.
    • If you are involved in a traffic accident, stay calm and call and wait for the police.
    • If there are no injuries and damage is minimal, the parties often come to agreement on the spot.
    • Unresolved disputes are handled by the courts.
    • In cases involving injuries, the driver determined at fault is responsible for the injured person’s medical costs. Sometimes, the police may hold your passport until the other parties are satisfied with the compensation they receive.
    • Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, visit China’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

    Public Transportation: Public transportation, including subways, trains, and buses, generally has a positive safety record and is widely available in major cities, although individuals on crowded buses and subways are often targeted by pick-pockets.

    24. Zhouzhuang

    Zhouzhuang is one of the most famous water towns in China. Often referred to as the “Venice of the East,” the town is criss-crossed with rivers and streams lined with ancient houses. Located less than 32 km (20 miles) from Suzhou in east China, Zhouzhuang is famous for its twin bridges, Shide and Yongan that are symbols of the town. A boat ride is a good way to see the city.

    In the 13th century the Venetian traveler Marco Polo visited Suzhou and commented on its splendors offering a great and noble city of elegant canals and bridges, possessed of fine silks and populated by craftsmen, philosophers and merchants.

    The city quickly became a center for scholars and the arts as well as an important source of commercial capital and a finance and banking center.

    The cultivation of silk worms played no small role in Suzhou’s success story. Based on stone artifacts, historians have traced silk production in the region as early as the Bronze Age. As weaving skills and techniques developed in concert with expanded trade routes, Silk Roads were created to reach as far as Japan, Persia, Greece and Rome. Under the Ming (1368–1644) and early Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, Suzhou’s prominence grew among wealthy landowning families.

    Symbols of that wealth can be seen today in Suzhou’s collection of classical gardens, well preserved since the Ming and Qing dynasties. Of the 50 gardens that survived from the original 200 dating back to the 11th century, nine are deemed so extraordinary to have been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden, Master-of-Nets Garden and Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, Blue Wave Pavilion, Lion Grove Garden, Couple’s Garden, Garden of Cultivation and Garden of Retreat and Reflection embody refined sophistication via symbolism designed by masters of landscape and waterscape.

    In 1981, Suzhou City was listed by the State Council as one of the four cities with historical and cultural heritage protection. Accordingly, the city has developed into one of China’s most prosperous, gaining in popularity as a tourism destination. In the 1990s, two major industrial parks were developed: the Singapore Industrial Park (SIP) and the Suzhou New District, where 20 percent of the Fortune 500 corporations have established a base in Suzhou. In 2014, The Grand Canal was inscribed to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Well-known museums include the Suzhou Silk Museum, Suzhou Museum of Opera and Theatre and the Suzhou Museum, designed by native architect of international repute, I.M. Pei.

    Today, Suzhou’s population and economy is among China’s most rapidly expanding. Only 60 miles from Shanghai, the world’s largest metropolitan area, service by bullet train makes for a 25-minute commute.

    Watch the video: Guangzhou China. Modern Bustling City in Southern China