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6. Services Available THE U.S. EMBASSY AND CONSULATES The staffs of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang provide helpful services and in some cases assist in resolving specific problems. It is always best, however, to try to clear up any misunderstandings and resolve problems related to your activity in China with the appropriate officials at your host institution before seeking the help of U.S. diplomatic per- sonnel. If other efforts fail, or if you need advice about how to deal with bureaucratic deadlocks, contact the Cultural Affairs Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing (phone: 52-1 161~. State Department regulations restrict the use of the diplomatic pouch and embassy medical facilities to diplomatic staff and their dependents. As noted earlier, however, the embassy does offer Japanese B enceph- alitis vaccine to any American in Beijing. (There is a series of three injections given one week apart; the cost is Y15 per injection.) Also, the embassy routinely issues letters of approval for Americans who leave China either for home or for short visits outside the country; but per- mission to travel within China must be secured from your host insti- tution. With the new, more relaxed travel regulations, these letters generally are no longer needed. When you arrive in China and each time you relocate, it is a good idea to register with the nearest U.S Embassy or Consulate. By doing so an emergency locator card will be kept on file in the event relatives need to reach you quickly. This card is also useful in case you lose your passport, develop a serious illness, or find yourself with other problems. 118
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 1 19 You must bring your passport with you when you register. Americans who register with the embassy or consulate nearest them may be in- cluded in functions open to all Americans: dances, movies, Friday after- noon cocktail hours, the annual Fourth of July gathering, and the like. Although there is no reason to anticipate that you will need the as- sistance of U.S. consular officers, you should be aware of what to do and what to expect in an emergency- for example, a medical or finan- cial emergency, difficulties with the police, or the death of a friend or relative in China. Within limits, consular officers can help in all such situations, and you should contact them for advice and assistance. For more information, consult the booklet General Guidelines on Consular Services, which is available free of charge from the: U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Public Affairs Staff, Room 681 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520 An officer in the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai emphasized to a group of American teachers that the consulate personnel are there to help out in case of medical or personal emergency. They can get plane tickets out of the country fast, and, if necessary, can fly in a medical emergency plane or helicopter to take you to Hong Kong or Japan. One teacher reports that the consulate did this for an American who had a heart attack in Sichuan Province. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing occupies three compounds near Ritan Park. The ambassador's residence and the offices of the press and cul- tural section (the U.S. Information Agency office in Beijing) are located at 17 Guanghua Lu (ask for "yi ban" when directing a taxi driver). The Bruce Building ("er ban"), located at 2 Xiushui Dong Jie, is a few blocks away and houses the consular section (where U.S. citizens register) and the administrative section. The new main building "sanban," houses the embassy's executive offices and the offices of the political and eco- nomic sections as well as the Foreign Commercial Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service. To inform Chinese students about study opportunities in the United States, the U.S. government donated reference collections to designated Chinese institutions containing information about U.S. colleges and universities, application procedures, and other pertinent details. See Appendix K for the locations and contents of these reference collections. The following list of U.S. Embassy and Consulate addresses and per- sonnel is current for summer 1987.
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120 CHINA BOUND U.S. Embassy/Beijing Address: Xiushui Bei Jie #3 Beijing, PRC Telephone: 52-3831 Ambassador Deputy Chief of Mission Political Counselor Economic Counselor Commercial Counselor Agricultural Attache Science Attache U.S. Information Agency (USIA) Telephone: 52- 1161 Public Affairs Officer Deputy Public Affairs Officer Cultural Affairs Officer/Academic Advisor Information Officer U.S. Consulate General/Chengdu Address: Jinjiang Hotel 180 Renmin Nan Lu Chengdu, PRC Telephone: 28-24481 Consul General Branch Public Affairs Officer U.S. Consulate General/Guangzbou (Canton) Address: Dongfang Hotel Renmin Bei Lu Guangzhou, PRC Telephone: 66-9900; 67-7702 x1000 Consul General Branch Public Affairs Officer (USIA) U.S. Consulate General/Shanghai Address: 1469 Huaihai Zhong Lu Shanghai, PRC Telephone: 37-9880 Consul General Branch Public Affairs Officer (USIA) Winston Lord Peter Tomsen Raymond Burkhardt Kent Weidemann Richard Johnston David Schoonover Pierre Perrolle McKinney Russell George Beasley Patrick J. Corcoran Sylvia Rifkin William Thomas Vallerie Steenson Mark Pratt Daryl Daniels Charles Sylvester William Palmer
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 121 U.S. Consulate General/Shenyang Address: 40 Lane 4, Section 5 Sanjing Lu Heping District Shenyang, Liaoning PRC Telephone: 29-0045, 0034, 0054 Consul General Branch Public Affairs Officer (USIA) Commercial Officer POSTAL SERVICES Eugene Dorris William G. Crowell Barbara Slawecki Every university campus and most hotels and neighborhood shopping areas have post offices or counters that provide standard postal services. Some of the smaller branch counters handle only cards, letters, and sales of stamps. International parcel post, registered mail, and other special services are usually offered in specified post offices in Beijing, at the Friendship Hotel and at the International Post Office, which recently moved to Jianguomen, near the diplomatic quarter. In summer 1986, airmail rates from China to the United States were Y1.10 for a letter and Y0.90 for a postcard. Internal airmail costs Y0.10. Internal surface rates are still inexpensive at Y0.08 outside the city and Y0.04 within any urban area. There is a special rate for seamail ship- ment of printed matter, which must be divided into 5-kilogram pack- ages: Y31.00 each. Seamail rates for other materials average about Y7.50 per kilogram. Packages must be opened and inspected at the post office, which also provides customs forms and in some cases the paper and string for sealing the package. Most Chinese customers prefer to sew cloth bags or build wooden crates for their fragile parcels. (A supply of book mailers can be very useful for easy shipment of small parcels from China.) Film can be mailed out in special containers sold in the major post offices. Books can be mailed from any postal counter. Ex- press mail is now available in major cities for about the same cost as similar services in the United States; it takes from four days to one week to reach most U.S. destinations. Air freight is handled through the Friendship Stores and the airlines. Mail delivery in larger cities usually is quite reliable. Letters from the United States to Beijing take about 7 to 12 days and from Beijing to major U.S. cities, from 4 to 7 days. You should add a few days for mail that must reach smaller cities on either side. Mail in China some- times shows evidence of tampering, but rarely goes astray permanently. A graduate student at Peking University comments on the handling of mail: "Many Chinese offices receive mail for students, faculty, and staff, which is either put into boxes for one or more persons or just laid out
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122 CHINA BOUND on a table or in a hallway. It is between this point and the intended recipient that much mail is opened and/or lost. The use of registered mail can help alleviate this problem. The post office will send a notice that the addressee must come to the post office with identification to pick up the package." If you move within China, you should not assume that mail will be forwarded to your new address; instead, resign your- self to returning to your original residence to search for undelivered mail. You can expedite mail delivery from the United States by asking your relatives and friends to stamp letters and packages clearly as airmail and address them to you in the People's Republic of China; include the name of the city in Piny~n* romanization and even better in Chinese characters. If you are literate in Chinese, you can write out the address in characters on a label that can be left at home and photocopied for multiple use. You should realize, however, that postal clerks are not always familiar with Pinyin, which may create delivery problems. Ex- press mail between the United States and China cuts delivery time approximately in half and is reliable because it is held at the post office for pickup. As noted earlier, Chinese postal regulations prohibit mailing large amounts of used clothing into the country for other than personal use; and medicines of any kind may not be mailed to China except by special permission in emergency situations. See the postal regulations outlined in Appendix H for other such items. When a package arrives from abroad, the post office mails a notice to you; you can then pick it up at the designated local post office after producing proper iden- -tification a passport or residence card- and pay duty on the contents. Foreigners may receive only four parcels per year, and no single parcel may be valued at more than US$30. Americans who are not members of the diplomatic community may not use the diplomatic pouch. It is at the post office that periodicals also can be purchased and ordered for delivery. Postal workers usually have a list of periodicals that they are authorized to order for foreign customers; according to some reports the list varies among post offices. To subscribe to certain periodicals, permission is required from the foreign affairs office of your unit. *Pinyin, the system of romanization now used in China, has replaced the Wade- Giles romanization system used prior to 1979. The Pinyin system more accu- rately reflects standard Mandarin names and pronunciations. Thus, Peking is now correctly rendered as Beijing, Canton is referred to by its Mandarin pro- nunciation Guangzhou- and so forth. Maps and atlases published after 1979 should list the Pinyin romanizations of Chinese cities and provinces.
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 123 CURRENCY AND BANKING The Chinese currency (renminbi or RMB) is based on a decimal system. The basic unit is the ynan (or Chinese dollar). The ynan is subdivided into 10 jiao (more commonly called mao, the Chinese dime) and 100 fen (penny). The largest paper RMB amount is the 10-ynan note (Y101; but there are also notes in amounts of Y5, Y2, Y1, and 1, 2, and 5 jiao. Coins, fashioned of light aluminum, come in denominations of 1, 2, and 5 fen. The official rate of exchange in January 1987 was Y3.71 to US$1.00. RMB is nonconvertible it cannot be legally taken out of China and is not available for purchase outside the PRC. The currency system became more complicated in April 1980 when the Bank of China began to issue a special convertible scrip, waibuijuan (the foreign exchange certificates or FEC discussed earlier), which was to be used by foreigners at designated places and for particular goods. Initially, this scrip was the currency foreigners obtained in return for traveler's checks and foreign currency; they used it to pay for imported goods and for services in establishments that catered specifically to foreigners. Renminbi was the preferred currency for such transactions as taxi rides and meals in most restaurants. In time, however, the demand for FEC, which the Chinese could use to purchase luxury goods, increased. Although the official rate of ex- change between RMB and FEC remained equal, unofficially the demand for FEC grew to the point that in many cases in which domestic RMB should have been requested, FEC had to be used. Taxi drivers, for example, would refuse to accept RMB for payment or if paid in large denominations of FEC would give back change in RMB. Rail passengers who should have been able to use RMB for tickets would find no tickets available unless FEC were produced. Menus in some hotels carried two sets of prices: one for payment in RMB and one at nearly half the price in FEC. Long-term residents learned to carry only smaller denomina- tions of FEC (which is issued in 50- and 100-ynan notes as well as in lower denominations corresponding with RMB) because it became so difficult to obtain change in FEC. In short, a black market developed and with it all of the ambiguity and tension that a dual currency system encourages. The news in the Chinese press in the spring of 1986 that FEC was due to be abolished was greeted with joy by most foreigners one stu- dent remarked that a return to a single currency system would make friendships between Chinese and foreigners easier. But at this writing it is not clear how and when the currency reform will be implemented, and the information that follows must be considered provisional. Foreigners who receive currency from abroad in the form of bank checks or transfers will receive FEC, which can be taken out of the
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124 CHINA BOUND country at exit. Remember that when you leave China, you must show exchange memos equivalent to the dollar amount requested if you want to convert your remaining FEC into dollars. The range of banking services in China varies; ask your host unit to direct you to the nearest Bank of China branch with full services for foreigners. In Beijing most Americans frequent the office on Dengshikou Xijie just north of Wangfujing Dajie. You can open a bank account (i.e., a savings that pays a low rate of interest) easily, in either U.S. dollars or FEC, and withdrawals can be made at any time. If your account is opened as a U.S. dollar account, you can withdraw funds in either U.S. dollars or FEC; but if it is opened using FEC, you can make withdrawals only in that form. All transactions are recorded in a passbook that must be surrendered when you leave the country. Bank drafts drawn on the Bank of China and issued in foreign currency can be sent out of the country, and there have been no reported problems cashing them in the United States. Wire transfers carry a minimal fee and have been smooth in most cases. As noted in the earlier chapter on preparing for your trip, it is important that your U.S. bank have correspondent re- lations with the Bank of China. Banking transactions can be time-consuming, especially if you live far from the branch that handles foreign matters. It is wise to keep a supply of traveler's checks on hand since they can be converted quite easily at the Bank of China counter at any hotel or store that serves foreigners. Be aware, however, that in some hotels these counters are open only a few hours each day and that the larger branches stay open seven days a week in some cases but close for two hours at lunchtime. Finally, although it has been borne out that any Chinese city is safer than its Western counterpart, theft is not unusual, and many foreigners have been the victims of pickpockets, particularly on buses. For your own peace of mind and that of your hosts in China, it is wise to take reasonable precautions with valuables and currency. For information on credit cards in China, see the first chapter of this handbook. CABLE AND TELEX FACILITIES Cables can be used for internal communications and can be sent almost anywhere in the world from China. Post offices, postal counters at most hotels, and special communications offices handle cables. Many large cities have a main telegraph office that is open 24 hours a day. Cable rates for overseas range from Y1.20 to Y1.50 per word; rates are doubled for fast delivery (4 hours) and halved for overnight service in some hotels. Some hotels accept credit cards for payment. Cables sent to foreigners in China are delivered to the foreign affairs office of their unit or to the reception desk at their hotel; notification
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 125 usually is prompt. Sometimes names become garbled, however, and if you are expecting a cable, it is a good idea to check on it or if you receive many cables and live in a hotel to register a cable address. Cables are considered public and will sometimes be delivered opened. Incoming telex facilities are becoming widely available at major ho- tels, although customers may have to punch their own tapes. The stan- dard overseas rate is Y8.40 per minute with a three-minute limit. The rate to Hong Kong is about half the overseas rate. THE TELEPHONE Local calls within any city in China are free; long-distance calls are priced according to their destination and length with the minimum charge based on a three-minute call. Long-distance calls within China are expensive, and connections are usually poor. As strange as it seems, calls to anywhere outside China are almost always clearer than a con- nection anywhere within the country. In most hotels, if you speak Chinese, you can place calls directly by dialing the overseas operator. Many local operators still do not speak English. Be sure to check with hotel attendants for procedures. How long it takes to place a call depends on the time of day at 9 or 10 p.m. Beijing time, for example, the wait can be up to two hours or more. It is advisable to book calls in advance and to try to call during nonbusiness hours in the United States. After your conversation is completed, the operator will call back to verify the time; in most hotels the bill is then paid at the service desk. Many Americans call the United States collect because calls are much less expensive when they are paid for there. If you are expecting a call from the United States, remember that at busy times overseas, the lines are sometimes congested and calls must be booked hours in advance. And be sure to let your friends and family know your room number as soon as possible because most foreigners are identified by room number rather than by name in most hotels. Except in the newest joint-venture hotels, there are no central registries listing names and room assign- ments. In dormitories, incoming calls are received by workers in the office who notify the party being called by loudspeaker. Callers must know the student's Chinese name; dormitory personnel often speak no Eng- lish. Placing a call from a dorm can take a great deal of time because many have only one telephone and many institutions have only one line to the outside. Some dormitories have a special long-distance tele- phone room; in others students must use the regular dormitory tele- phone. You can place an international call by dialing the overseas operator (in major cities, most of them speak English and are quite
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126 CHINA BOUND helpful) who will phone back after the call goes through. The bill can be paid to dormitory attendants. All of China operates on one time zone: 13 hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time and 16 hours ahead of Pacific standard time. In 1986 China began to use a new "summer time," which is equivalent to U.S. daylight savings time; the time difference now is the same year round. Because changes in the U.S. system are being discussed, confusion about time differences seems inevitable. China is in the same time zone as Tokyo and one hour ahead of Hong Kong during daylight savings time. China Catifow~ia Washington, D.C. 8 a.m. 4 p.m. previous afternoon 7 p.m. previous evening 8 p.m. 4 a.m. same day 7 a.m. same day Telephone books are hard to find in China, and they do not list res- idential or neighborhood phone numbers. Two directories that can be used as references for organizations are the China Phone Book and Address Directory, which can be ordered from: The China Phone Book Company Box 11581 Hong Kong and the annual China Telephone Directory published by the Beijing Telecommunications Equipment Plant (their phone number is 47-16- 551. Do not assume that your phone number is on record for public information, and be sure to collect the phone numbers of friends in China. Changes in important numbers for foreigners are sometimes noted in the China Daily. MEDICAL CARE The host unit in China is obligated to provide proper medical care for all its personnel, a responsibility that worries the Chinese host as much as the foreign guest. Colds and stomach disorders are common ailments. Seasoned residents advise that if remedies brought from home do not work, the first step is to go to your work unit's clinic. Medical personnel are almost always kind and concerned, but few speak English and at times, in their efforts to find a quick cure, they sometimes prescribe massive doses of antibiotics for any ailment that seems serious. As one teacher commented, "It helps if you can make a self-diagnosis, i.e., say whether you want penicillin or aspirin!" Wear a medical identification bracelet if you are allergic to any medications. As noted earlier, parents of school-age children warn newcomers with children to request that no medications be given in school without parental consent.
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 127 Chinese medicine is especially effective for the treatment of colds and diarrhea. Those who want to see a Western doctor, however, cannot rely on the U.S. Embassy, which treats only its own staff except in the case of encephalitis vaccine, which is offered to any American in China. The Japanese, Australian, French, and British Embassies usually have a physician on the staff who will see other foreign nationals, and they sometimes stock medications not available in Chinese facilities. You can call the general information number at these embassies to obtain phone numbers of their staff physicians. In case of serious illness the physician or the host unit will refer you to the foreigners' clinic at one of the large municipal hospitals: the Peking Union Medical College (formally the Capital Hospital), the Sino-Japanese Hospital, or the Friendship Hospital in Beijing; the Worker's Hospital in Nanjing; or the No. 1 People's Hospital in Shanghai. These hospitals have a special wing for foreigners and usually have at least one English-speaking phy- sician on duty. Hospital pharmacies carry a limited supply of drugs and vaccines; however, immunoglobulin is not available. Note also that the Chinese do not have Rh-negative blood and thus do not stock it in their blood banks. For this reason it is extremely important that anyone with Rh-negative blood register at the U.S. Embassy so that blood can be located quickly from the foreign community in case of emergency. Costs for medical care are nominal: an outpatient visit costs Y5 or less; an X-ray, Y10 to Y20. The cost of hospitalization varies according to the status of the patient and the quality and location of the hospital. For a researcher's spouse who contracted pneumonia in late 1985, a two-week hospital stay in Guangzhou totaled Y1,930 for medication and treatment and Y792 for lodging and food. The care was reportedly very effective. In another case a student who became ill with dysentery on a school trip with Chinese friends spent a week in the Worker's Hospital in Nanjing and paid a total of Y68. Although she describes the hospital facilities as barely adequate, she reports that the medical and nursing care were warm and attentive, and in the case of a con- dition like dysentery, which is well understood in China effective and inexpensive. She points out, however, that many provisions for daily life must be brought in by the patient soap, toilet paper, washbasin, special foods, all of the necessities for dorm life that form every student's survival kit. Grain coupons also were required for the purchase of some foods. Most Chinese patients are fed and given extra care by family members "Hospital food and services are very limited by Western standards. You will want someone to bring you soda, juice, fruit, extra toiletries, and reading material." In this student's case, these amenities and attentions were provided by the Chinese students traveling with her. She adds that it is of use to know the Latin names of drugs to
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128 CHINA BOUND which you are allergic because that is how they are identified by Chinese doctors. Services in hospitals that serve foreigners more frequently (such as the Peking Union Medical College) are more consistent with Western standards. Useful tips for preventing and coping with illness abroad, including how to care for children who become ill, can be found in Health Infor- mation for International Travel 1986, which is available for $4.75 from: The Superintendent of Documents U.S. Government Printing Office Washington, DC 20402 (202-783-3238) URBAN TRANSPORTATION Most people in China use one of three methods to get around in any city: taxi, bus, or bicycle. Walking is difficult for long distances because there are few sidewalks in the suburbs and traffic is intimidating. Taxis are expensive: from Y0.60 to Y0.90 per kilometer, depending on the model of the car. A variety of automobiles are now in use in China ranging from Volkswagen Rabbits to Toyotas and Mercedes. Be sure to ask the mileage costs before engaging a car. Some taxis are metered; all should have a sticker or information card that cites fares per kilo- meter. Until recently taxi shortages in the major cities created headaches for foreigners who relied on this mode of transportation. In Beijing the creation of several new companies has alleviated the problem at major taxi stands, usually located at the larger tourist hotels, where you sim- ply wait in line for a car. (Some taxi companies allow their drivers to pick up fares at places other than designated taxi stands.) For those who live on campuses or work units with no access to a taxi stand, the only recourse is to call the nearest taxi company and wait for a car to arrive, a nerve-wracking process that sometimes produces results only after a long wait or at times not at all. In an entertaining article in the China Business Review, Carroll Bogart (now Newsweek correspondent in Beijing) offers tips on competing for taxis and explanations of the problems. For hailing a taxi, she writes that in Beijing you should be positioned on a major thoroughfare (not Tian'an Men, however): "A timid wave from the curbside will not do. It helps to plunge into traffic waving one's arms dramatically, or simply to open the door of an empty taxi waiting at a red light and hope that the driver agrees." The driver's agreement is not to be taken for granted, however, and securing a taxi requires negotiating skills. Bogart lists the 10 reasons taxi drivers refuse certain unlucky passengers: "a good
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 129 TV show, quitting time, mealtime, daily quota completed, short trip, wrong direction, bad weather, night trip, bad road, passenger without foreign exchange." Some of these excuses are inexcusable; others stem from very real constraints that the taxi drivers face. For example, be- cause each driver must fulfill a daily kilometer quota, a short trip in heavy traffic is a waste of time. Some drivers also must earn a certain amount of FEC each day and will therefore refuse Chinese passengers who now make up at least half of the customers and foreigners with- out foreign exchange certificates. Finally, drivers are subject to dis- missal for breaking traffic rules and lose their license for an accident involving a foreigner. As a result, inexperienced drivers are reluctant to drive in inclement weather because they fear the consequences of any mishap. Tips for hailing a taxi also include finding one that is returning to the station at your hotel or nearby and naming your ul- timate destination to make the trip worthwhile, even if there will be stops along the way. Taxi waiting costs are calculated by five-minute intervals (five minutes equals one kilometer). One solution to the taxi problem is to hire a car ahead of time by bargaining with a driver for a half-day's worth of transportation, you can be assured that the car will wait for you as you conduct business or run errands. Some residents for example, those with children who must be transported to school each day engage a car by the week for as little as Y30 to Y100 daily, depending on the company and the size and make of the car. For large groups, mini-vans or mianbuoche ("bread trucks"), so named because of their supposed resemblance to a loaf of bread, can be engaged by the day or half-day. Some of these small vans serve certain bus stops and can be hailed from the road. Buses go almost everywhere for a few mao, but they are slow and very crowded during the rush hours. It takes at least one hour to reach downtown Beijing from Beijing University, for example, and 30 minutes from Fudan to the center of Shanghai. In some cities the buses stop running rather early in the evening; a researcher in Wuhan notes that bus service there terminates at 9 p.m., and in Beijing many routes are not served after 10 p.m. A monthly bus pass can be convenient; ask your unit to help you apply for one. In Beijing a pass costs Y5 per month for unlimited rides. Much of the time the most efficient way to get around is by bicycle. Although most foreigners relish the speed and freedom a bicycle affords, newcomers usually find traffic heavy and chaotic in many urban and suburban areas. In some cities, cars still flash their lights on and off to warn cyclists and pedestrians, but traffic accidents are on the rise. A recent article in the China Daily reports that traffic accidents killed 759 persons in Beijing in 1985, seven times the number of victims of crim- inal activities. The article attributes most of the traffic problem to the
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130 CHINA BOUND large number of bicycles on the road, although motorcycles, bad roads, increased truck traffic, and an inefficient traffic control system are also cited as causes of accidents. Safety also is a problem; women should be aware that females have been harassed while biking alone at night. Mechanical failure is less of a worry; bicycle repair shops and stands can be found in almost any neighborhood. Some researchers and teachers find that their hosts strongly urge them to avoid cycling and public transportation. And in some work units, cars and mini-buses are used to transport foreign passengers. RECREATION Most university campuses have basketball and volleyball courts, track and soccer fields, and horizontal and parallel bars. Some have tennis courts and swimming pools. In Beijing, the International Club down- town and the Friendship Hotel each have a 50-meter pool and tennis courts; some of the joint-venture hotels have pools and exercise facil- ities. To use the International Club and Friendship Hotel pools, you must obtain a swimming card (which requires a minimal physical ex- amination) to present for admission. Physical exams are given at the Friendship Hotel's clinic; the hotel also issues swimming cards. There is a charge for swimming at these facilities, but prices are nominal. On most campuses, foreigners are welcome to participate in team sports, and many consider this an excellent means to get to know Chinese colleagues. Most dormitories have communal television lounges, and almost all hotels have color televisions in each room. Most colleges and univer- sities also schedule movies. Some theater and opera tickets can be ordered by phone, but you must stand in line early in the day to buy tickets for popular performances. Recent reports indicate that tickets for performances at popular concert halls, such as the one just south of Zhongnanhai in Beijing, are notoriously difficult to obtain. Some units are willing to help their foreign guests obtain tickets for special shows, and students often are given tickets by their foreign affairs of- ficials who also arrange for group transportation to the event itself. Every city has at least one public park for outings and a few good restaurants (eating out is a favorite pastime in China). Ask your Chinese and foreign friends for restaurant recommendations. Some of the best finds these days are the small, family-owned eateries that serve genuine home cooking. In China "reserving a table" means you also order your meal ahead, and you pay a standard banquet price for the meal, which can be quite expensive. But if you go early (5 p.m.) and hope for a table, you can enjoy a meal in some of the finest restaurants for less than half the price quoted to foreigners.
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 131 Because so many foreigners visit Beijing at least once in their stay, a few favorite restaurants are listed here. Many foreigners like the deli- style atmosphere of the restaurant in Ritan Park, which is famous for its jiaozi (dumplings). The Shoudu Kaorouji Mongolian barbecue res- taurant on the shore of Houhai behind the Imperial City features dining in an upstairs room with a balcony overlooking the lake in the summer. (This restaurant was closed for renovations in 1986.) The restaurant at the Bamboo Garden Hotel is located in a traditional courtyard, as is the famous Szechuan restaurant, which is situated in a house that once belonged to Yuan Shikai, the famous military man of late Qing and early Republican times. Alternatives to Chinese food can be found in the expensive but pleasant Japanese restaurant on the second floor of the Beijing Hotel; on the top floor of the Xinqiao Hotel you can order Western and Pakistani food. Finally, the offerings in the joint-venture hotels are fairly wide-ranging (from pizza and hamburgers to cheese fondue and curry buffets) but expensive. INTERNAL TRAVEL The possibilities for travel in China are so rich and varied that only general guidelines can be offered here especially now that a wealth · of travel lore exists in guidebooks and newspaper and magazine ac- counts, all of which can help you make the most of your travel oppor- tunities. Travelers willing to "rough it" to economize and escape the confines of planned tours can consult two useful guides: China A Travel Survival Kit by Alan Samagalski and Michael Buckley, and China off the Beaten Tract< by Brian Schwartz (see Appendix L for publication information on all sources listed in this section). Academic travelers who do not speak Chinese report that these guides were invaluable for pointing out ways to save money and to see the "real China." For those interested in historical sites, Nagel's Encyclopedic Guide to China is scholarly and detailed. An up-to-date guide to historical and tourist sites that comes highly recommended is Evelyne Garside's China Com- panion: A Guide to 100 Cities, Resorts, and Places of Interest in the People's Republic of China. In the spring of 1986, several regulations went into effect to ease the bureaucratic barriers involved in travel. The China National Tourist Office reported at that time that 244 cities and sites were opened to foreign travelers and that "foreigners with a valid visa or residence certificate can travel in areas open to foreign visitors without special travel permits." Areas that are not listed as open can be visited only with a travel permit issued by the Public Security Bureau or the gon- ganju. Foreign affairs officials usually will help secure these permits for the non-Chinese-speaking traveler. But as indicated by the recent
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132 CHINA BOUND detention of a journalist who traveled by motorcycle through parts of China not yet officially open to foreigners, there are limits to travel in China still despite the new liberal policies. The first step in arranging travel is to purchase train tickets at the local train station or airline tickets at the CAAC office in your city. For all practical purposes, only one-way tickets can be bought. Some trav- elers report being able to buy round-trip tickets but with reservations only for the leg of the trip from the city of origin to the city of desti- nation. At each stop on your journey, you must buy tickets for the next leg; if you need help, consult the local luxingstze (China Travel Service) counter at your hotel. You can avoid the tourist surcharge if you buy tickets at the train station- but if you do not speak Chinese, the process can be confusing as few service clerks speak English. Timing must be carefully orchestrated. Train tickets usually cannot be purchased ear- lier than three days before departure, and you must literally have them in hand when you make hotel reservations. Train accommodations are of two types: soft and hard class; within each, you can choose seats or sleeping berths. For long or overnight journeys, soft-class (i.e., first- class) sleeping compartments have four berths with comfortable pad- ded seats, a small table, doilies, pillows, a thermos of hot water, an overhead fan, and an overhead luggage compartment. These cars are no longer reserved for foreigners as they once were but also serve high- level Chinese officials. Hard class is just that wooden benches for seats and thinly padded berths in sleepers that are not enclosed and are stacked three high. Prices for berths in this class depend on the level, with the highest price charged for the lowest berth. Hard-class tickets do not guarantee a seat, and many a traveler has sat out a long journey in the dining car or stood, for lack of a seat. Some foreigners enjoy the lively atmosphere of the hard-class sections where they are often the main amusement for their fellow travelers; others prefer a more sedate ride. Train food varies in quality. Some trains are famous for excellent food, but usually foreigners do not make their travel plans on the basis of such amenities. About two hours before mealtimes, a service person will ask each foreign traveler about their dinner plans and will offer two or more grades (biaochun) of food ranging in price from about Y6 to Y10 for four or five dishes. Most experienced travelers have noticed that there is no discernible difference in the amount or quality of the food in different grades, and they suggest you take the lowest biaozhun. You can skip the arranged fare altogether and opt for a noodle dish for half the price or the even cheaper boxes of hot rice with a few vegetables that Chinese passengers favor. Most passengers carry an assortment of food (from watermelons to peanuts) to be consumed along the way. Tea bags can be purchased on the train. Often there will be no English-
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SERVICES AVAILABLE 133 speaking personnel on the train, which can be a problem for foreigners when ordering dinner. If you do not speak Chinese, you might want to take a supply of nonperishable goods. Mix-ups are common about what kind of luggage is allowed on the train. It is a good idea to keep with you a small carry-on bag for es- sentials and to take seriously the regulation to lock checked bags. A number of travelers have reported items missing from outside pockets of luggage upon arrival at their final destination. Internal air travel was once a bargain most airline tickets used to cost about as much as a soft berth by train. However, a 30 percent increase applying only to foreigners (and excluding overseas Chinese visitors) went into effect in July 1986. But even with the increase, do- mestic service in China remains inexpensive by international standards. Reportedly, air cargo, air freight, and excess baggage costs also are going up. Foreigners of different status are subject to different regulations, prices, and expectations about where, when, and how they should travel. Teachers and researchers are limited primarily by their work schedules and agreements with their unit about travel. Students are constrained by academic schedules and can travel only on weekends (which on some campuses begin at noon on Saturday); during the long national holiday at Spring Festival (chunj~e) in late January or early February; or during summer vacation. These restrictions do not apply to students engaged in dissertation research under CSCPRC auspices or to those governed by university-exchange agreements. Inexpensive casual travel is no longer limited to students. More and more, hardy travelers with no Chinese-language expertise are finding their way through China on their own. One colorful account accurately describes the flavor of the experience: "It was exhilarating to plan my own itinerary, to leave the beaten path and stir up a town with my presence, to eat and travel and suffer with the average Chinese. But it was also aggravating to cope with the lines and the language barrier while buying food or train tickets, and there were times when I was exhausted by 'hard-class' trains and spitting passengers and lying hotel staff who insisted that there was no room at the inn." The author Nicholas D. Kristof, in this special report to The Washington Post (Feb- ruary 26, 1984), goes on to describe the problems and possibilities of finding inexpensive accommodations despite the effort to keep foreign- ers in the fancier establishments: "But almost all hotels, even the finest, have 'dormitories' where a bed goes for a song if the guest outlasts the cries of 'Mayo!' Dormitories are sometimes the barracks they sound like, but more often are comfortable rooms with perhaps four beds shared with other travelers. A bed typically costs the equivalent of US$2-$4." Kristof observes that you must insist on dormitory accom- . . , . ^^ . .
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134 CHINA BOUND modations if you want them they will not be offered immediately: "Usually the clerk gives in fairly quickly, but there is the famous story of the Frenchman who waited three days for a dormitory bed. And each night while waiting he slept in one of the many vacant beds reasoning that he could not be charged for sleeping in beds that supposedly were already taken." Clearly, a sense of humor is essential for this kind of travel, but almost all who have struck out on their own conclude that the warmth and hospitality they received along the way far outweighed the frustrations. Teachers and research scholars (or anyone of senior status) are ex- pected to travel as tourists and pay tourist prices, although some Amer- ican researchers who speak Chinese and can negotiate on their own have traveled hard class and dispensed with guides. Bicycles can be rented in most cities, but some travelers take their bikes along with them on trains for easy transportation. It is still a good idea, however, to book a room in advance from the local office of the China Travel Service especially in busy tourist times (May through October) in pop- ular cities. Rooms, like train tickets, can be reserved only one leg at a time. Remember too that Chinese people are traveling more these days; as a result, national holiday times are not always ideal for travel. Most teachers report that their hosts are willing to help plan and arrange for trips within China. But at times the host unit's eagerness to arrange for easy, comfortable, and accompanied travel conflicts with teachers' desires to plan their own trips and travel alone. If you want to dispense with guides and cars and soft accommodations on trains, you may prevail if you can speak Chinese fairly well and your hosts are confident that you can get along without help. It is important to note, however, that some foreigners have discovered that their Chinese colleagues expect to accompany them and in fact look forward to it because frequently it is their only chance to travel. Often, students can take special tours sponsored by their unit. The tours usually cover five or more cities in three weeks at considerable savings over tourist rates a typical three-week tour might cost as little as Y300 (frequently, students are put up in dormitories along the way). What these trips lack in spontaneity and comfort is compensated for in lower costs and sometimes opportunities to reach sites not always accessible to tourists. In some universities and colleges, researchers and teachers and their families also have been invited to go along on these trips. Whatever the style or the itinerary, you are encouraged to travel at every opportunity. There is no better way to enlarge your perspective about China, to lift your spirits, and to meet Chinese people easily and naturally.
Representative terms from entire chapter: