China Country Report
The majority of trips to China (population 1.3 billion) take place without any major incident. Nevertheless, travelers do face some significant risks that should be taken into account prior to departure.
First, with regard to health, repeated episodes of air pollution (smog) were reported in late 2015 and early 2016 in the capital Beijing and other northern provinces; pollution levels (notably fine particles) often reach levels (e.g. red alert level) much higher than the maximum defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). During these episodes, anyone in the affected areas is advised to refrain as much as possible from engaging in outdoor activity.
Regarding medical conditions, hospitals that offer decent quality services can be found in large cities throughout the country (e.g. Beijing, Shanghai, Canton).
On February 27, 2017, the jihadist organization the Islamic State (IS) for the first time explicitly threatened China over what the terror group sees as repressive policy in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
In late February 2017, more than 10,000 security personnel gathered in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, in a show of force in the face of a recent uptick in violence in the region, the fourth such demonstration since the beginning of the year. Earlier in February, Chinese officials ordered all vehicles in Xinjiang's Bayingol prefecture be installed with mandatory GPS devices by June 30, part of a security crackdown to address what the government sees as an extreme terror threat in the region.
A relatively high risk of various natural disasters threaten certain parts of this vast country. Seismic activity is particularly common northwest of the Beijing, along the border between Shanxi and Hebei provinces, and in the autonomous regions of Interior Mongolia and Tibet. On May 12, 2008, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 hit Sichuan province (center-west), causing more than 80,000 deaths and significant damage to infrastructure. Over the past ten years, China has experienced nine earthquakes with magnitudes at or above 7.6 on the Richter scale. Additionally, coastal areas can be hit with tsunamis triggered by earthquakes.
Heat waves are regular occurrences in the summer months; temperatures higher than 40°C (104°F) are often recorded in the cities of Shanghai and Chongqing, as well as in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Fujian provinces.
It should also be noted that despite receiving little to no coverage in the local media, social tensions remain high, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang, where the conflict between ethnic minorities and the Han-controlled central government continues.
Social instability (protests, strikes) is relatively uncommon in cities, with the exception of nationalistic rallies that sometimes occur when tensions between China and the United States, Taiwan, or Japan are high (e.g. anti-Japanese protests took place in 2012, 2013, and early 2014). These protests by and large do not pose a threat to Westerners but do have the potential to complicate travel plans. As a general rule, travelers should avoid all rallies and protests and refrain from photographing these events.
In the first half of 2016, the slowdown in Chinese economic growth (below 7 percent in 2015) and a wave of layoffs in some industries (public sector) resulted in a number of strikes and protests.
In recent years, Beijing has developed a territorial dispute with several neighbors (Vietnam, Philippines) over sovereignty in the South China Sea that has now reached a critical threshold.
Relations with Taiwan remain tense in the wake of Mrs. Tsai Ing-Wen's (member of pro-independence party DPP) landslide electoral victory in January 2016.
An ongoing territorial dispute with India (the region of Arunachal Pradesh is contested; India alleges that China often intrudes into Kashmir) is likely to revive nationalist tensions in both countries.
Finally, with US President Donald Trump taking office in January 2017, his unusual and often inflammatory rhetoric on China and Taiwan could irritate the relationship between the two major global economies.
Starting February 2017, foreigners entering China could be subject to fingerprinting upon arrival. This measure will be put in place progressively at international ports and airports for international travelers between the ages of 14 and 70.
Security and travel conditions in the autonomous region of Tibet can deteriorate quickly due to protests and ensuing repression by security forces. Additionally, the issuance of visas required for travel to Tibet, where tensions are currently high (nearly 150 cases of self-immolation have been reported in recent years), is often restricted and may even temporarily suspended by the authorities, generally without warning.
A number of Western governments advise against travel to Xinjiang (formerly East Turkestan), a region strictly controlled by security forces.
It should be noted that since January 1, 2013, citizens of 45 countries can obtain a 72-hour transit visa in Beijing (at the airport) as well as in Shanghai (at Hongqiao and Pudong airports). These visas can also be obtained in Canton (Baiyun Airport) as of August 1, 2013, in Chengdu (Shuangliu Airport) as of September 1, 2013, in Shenyang and Dalian (Liaoning province, Taoxian and Zhoushuizi airports) as of January 1, 2014, at Guilin (Liang Jiang airport) since July 28, 2014, at Kunming (Changshui airport) since October 1, 2014, at Hangzhou (Xiaoshan airport) since October 20, 2014, and at Harbin (Taiping airport) since August 1, 2015.
This benefit is reserved for passengers who are traveling to a third country via China. In order to benefit from the measure, passengers must have a valid ticket for a third country, and, if applicable, a visa for this third country. Furthermore, when traveling to their third country destination, passengers must depart from the same Chinese airport they arrived at and do so within 72 hours of arriving.
In the northeast, the climate is continental: winters (November to April) are very cold and dry while summers are very hot and humid; it rains daily in the months of July and August. Sandstorms can strike Beijing in mid-April. The northwest is arid with cold and dry winters and very hot and dry summers. The climate in the south, where the rainy season lasts from June until September, is tropical; winters are mild and humid and summers are hot and rainy, often to the point of being stifling. In the center of the country, winters are cold and summers are very hot, even sweltering, and rainy, with high levels of humidity. Rainfall is the heaviest between June and September.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +86 Police: 110 Emergency Services: 120
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
China: World’s first case of H7N4 Avian influenza confirmed
TIMEFRAME: from 2/17/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/18/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Shanghai).
COUNTRY/REGION: Jiangsu province
China: Vehicle-ramming incident leaves at least 18 wounded in Shanghai Feb. 2
TIMEFRAME: from 2/1/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/2/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Shanghai).