A Ten-Year Visa!

This afternoon the good folks at FEDEX delivered a small package to my house, and it wasn’t even a Christmas present. In fact, it was something better — my passport, with a brand-spanking-new TEN-YEAR, MULTIPLE ENTRY TOURIST VISA to China.

tenyearvisa

I first got wind of this new visa from a report in the Wall Street Journal back on November 11, 2014. It came during President Obama’s trip to China:

President Barack Obama unveiled the new visa arrangements in a speech to business executives in Beijing. According to both governments, the length of tourist and business visas would be extended for each country’s citizens to 10 years from the current one-year limit. Student visas would be extended from one year to five years.

I must admit that my first reaction was skepticism; it just sounded too good to be true. But since I have a trip to China planned for the end of January, and the visa in my passport was set to expire the day BEFORE my departure, I figured I was going to find out.

In the three decades that I lived in China, I saw numerous iterations of visa requirements. When I first went as a teacher in 1984, we only got work visas for one semester at a time. I guess the thought of having a foreigner in the country for a year at a time was just too overwhelming. And, for extra fun (and red tape) we had to get exit visas in order to leave the country. The government gave us permission to be there, but they also granted (hopefully) permission to leave. This was especially harrowing if there was a family or medical emergency that required a swift departure from the country. I can remember more than one late night call to the local police asking for permission for a colleague or a teammate to leave the country. These ended sometime in the 1990′s.

Tourist visas have never had a validity of more than one year, and only in the past 5 or 6 years have multiple-entry visas become standard issue.

And now, suddenly, it’s ten years!

As I do my happy dance, I am also chuckling at the turn of events – I lived in China for nearly 3 decades on 1 year visas. Now that I no longer live in China, I have a 10 year visa!

Now, some of you may be thinking, “hey, how do I get one of those?”

Well, the easy answer is….just apply. It seems that the 10 year tourist visa is now the standard issue visa.

One thing I discovered in the process is that even though US residents are instructed to apply at the Chinese consulate that serves their region, the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC can issue visas to applicants from anywhere.

I used the Washington-based passport/visa service called Allied Passport, and I’d definitely recommend them. I called in advance to ask if these visas were real and they told me they were. I sent my passport off, and had it back within a week.

Here is the Q&A about this visa on their site:

Do I qualify for a China 10 year visa?
Answer: You must hold a USA passport and apply as a tourist or business person. Your passport must not expire within 12 months and you must have at least two blank visa pages. If you do receive a 10 year visa it will allow for you to stay in China for up to 60 days per visit.

There isn’t a 10 year visa option on the application form, how should I apply?
Answer: In section 2.2, please mark “other”. The Chinese Visa Office in Washington issues validity at their discretion. Obtaining a ten year visa is likely, but is not guaranteed. If you qualify for this visa they will automatically issue you a ten year visa no matter which box you check.

I want a 10 year China visa but don’t have a trip planned. I see an itinerary is required, what is this about?
Answer: The Chinese Embassy still requires a flight itinerary with your application. However, the itinerary does not have to be a confirmed or purchased ticket. What you can do is go online and hold a flight reservation, or simply go on a booking website such as Expedia or an airline’s website and make a tenative flight itinerary. The printout must include:

A) The applicant’s first and last name.
B) Specific dates and the Chinese cities you’ll be flying in and out of.

As of now the dates of your itinerary must be within 90 days of your initial depature and you cannot be in China for for than 60 days at a time.

In my case, I was able to submit an airline ticket and a hotel reservation. The company told me that it was better to have a hotel reservation as opposed to a letter of invitation from a friend. Their rationale was that an invitation letter to visit a friend might incline them to issue a different kind of visa. I just made a hotel booking through Booking.com (one that can be cancelled, of course).

Be sure to check TOURISM in Section 2.1, even if you are going to visit someone.

Finally, what if your passport expires within the then years of the visa validity? Here is the note that was stapled into my passport:

visanote

In other words, the visa does not expire with the passport!

 

Escaping the Cities

In the 1960′s and 1970′s the Chinese government sent millions of city dwellers “down to the countryside,” many of them students and intellectuals. The purpose was ostensibly to have them learn about hard work and revolutionary fervor from the peasants. It was also a way to get them out of the cities so they wouldn’t (continue to) cause trouble. When the policies began to change in the 1980′s, many of these “sent down youth” were rehabilitated and allowed to return to the cities.

In the 1990′s, as China’s economy was taking off, it was the peasants themselves who began moving to the cities. They were needed as the labor force to build the urban metropolises that we see today. This urbanization has seen a caused demographic shift. In 1984, the year I went to China, 80% of the population lived in the countryside, and 20% lived in the cities. By 2011 the ratio was 50/50.

To be sure, China’s cities offer jobs and opportunities that don’t exist in the countryside. But as the cities grow (Beijing is now 20+ million), many urbanites are beginning to lose interest in the busy-ness of life, not to mention the traffic and pollution. Their response is to get away from it all and voluntarily go “down to the countryside.”

China File recently posted a short film, titled “Down to the Countryside,” about an urban family that made this choice: Here’s the description:

The world has heard much of late about the scale and scope of China’s mass migration from the poor rural countryside to its booming cities. Some think the number of these migrant workers will soon reach some 400 million souls. They have created massive new urban megaplexes like Chongqing, which now has a population of close to 30 million.

But such precipitous, rapid, and massive urbanization inevitably causes reactions. And in this beautifully shot short film by Leah Thompson and Sun Yunfan, we are introduced to one urban “back-to-the-lander,” Ou Ning, who for all the understandable reasons has moved his family from Beijing to the countryside in the storied Huizhou region of Anhui Province. The film is a lovely evocation of how urban malaise has led one city intellectual to forsake the increasingly polluted, expensive, hectic, and crowded capital in search of a quieter, cleaner, and more sylvan setting for his family.

Whether he will prove a harbinger of things to come in China is as yet uncertain. But what does seem beyond question is that as China’s enormous and environmentally hazardous cities grow ever larger and more polluted, Ou Ning’s pioneering escape will become a tempting model for many others to follow. —Orville Schell

Here is the film. (note: if you receive this post by email, click here to view the film.)

Related Post:

Where Have All the Villages Gone? 

 

Beijing Time-lapse

I just ran across this amazing time-lapse video of Beijing, and it is making me seriously homesick. I think I can recognize and have been to every spot in the film. And I of course have to remind myself that the sky doesn’t look like that every day!

If you haven’t been to Beijing, maybe this will make you want to go. If you have, perhaps it will make you miss it as well. And if you do live there now, consider yourself blessed!

(note: if you receive this post by email and cannot view the video, please click here.)

Related Posts:

“Live the Language” – a Great Beijing Video

Teeny Tiny Beijing

Beijing, Like You’ve Never Seen it Before

 

Happy Constitution Day! Don’t Mention the Constitution!

China just celebrated a brand new holiday: Constitution Day (December 4). The government has put forth this holiday as a way to signal it’s commitment to “rule of law,” something that Chinese President Xi Jinping has been promoting with much gusto as of late.

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Image source: Xinhua

Here’s what the Global Times had to say about the holiday:

“Constitution Day, which falls on December 4, was set up by the country’s top legislature on November 1 this year after the initiative was proposed in a key meeting of the CPC in October on comprehensively advancing the rule of law.

It is the first time in CPC history that an entire plenary session was devoted to address the rule of law as the ruling party’s policy.”

It then went on to say that nationwide activities were held to promote the Constitiution.

However, discussing the Constitution online was apparently NOT one of those activities. In fact, according the site Fei chang Dao, Baidu banned users from establishing discussion forums related to the Constitution.

In other words, “Happy Constitution Day! Don’t mention the Constitution!”

For some reason all I could think of was the classic Fawlty Towers episode where Basil Fawlty, in a failed attempt not to offend his German guests, reminds people “not to mention the war.”

In case you’re intersested, you can read the Chinese Constitution here.

Four Days, Four Books

I’m safely ensconced in a warm condo along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The fire place is on (switch-operated) and outside the temperature is 2 (!), with a howling wind. It’s a perfect reading getaway!

I may not succeed at knocking all four of these books off in the next four days, but I’m going to try:

China 1921: The Travel Guide, by Carl Crow and Paul French

China 1921: The Travel Guide

From Amazon:

“Set the time machine for China, the year 1921. Experience first-hand the Middle Kingdom’s Golden Age of Travel, a time when steamships and railways had opened up new possibilities for the adventurous sojourner, yet the country had “lost none of its unique charm” and remained “as interesting and strange as it was to Europeans who more than five hundred years ago read Marco Polo’s amazing account of the land of the Great Khan.”

This Camphor Press book is a specially abridged version of the original The Travelers’ Handbook for China by Shanghai-based American newsman Carl Crow. It comes with maps, illustrations, and has a new introduction from Paul French (Carl Crow biographer and author of the true crime bestseller Midnight in Peking).”

Tower of the Sun: Stories from the Middle East and North Africa, by Michael Totten

Tower of the Sun: Stories From the Middle East and North Africa

From Amazon:

Prize-winning author Michael J. Totten’s gripping first-person narratives from the war zones, police states, and revolutionary capitals of the Middle East and North Africa paint a vivid picture of peoples and nations at war with themselves, each other, and—sometimes—with the rest of the world.

His journeys take him from Libya under the gruesome rule of Muammar Qaddafi to Egypt before, during and after the Arab Spring; from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in Syria on the eve of that country’s apocalyptic civil war to a camp on the Iran-Iraq border where armed revolutionaries threaten to topple the Islamic Republic regime in Tehran; from the contested streets of conflict-ridden Jerusalem to dusty outposts in the Sahara where a surreal conflict few have even heard of simmers long after it should have expired; and from war-torn Beirut and Baghdad to a lonely town in central Tunisia that seeded a storm of revolution and war that spread for thousands of miles in every direction.

Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia, by David Greene

Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia

From Amazon:

Far away from the trendy cafés, designer boutiques, and political protests and crackdowns in Moscow, the real Russia exists.

Midnight in Siberia chronicles David Greene’s journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 6,000-mile cross-country trip from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. In quadruple-bunked cabins and stopover towns sprinkled across the country’s snowy landscape, Greene speaks with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church, by Michael A.G. Haykin

Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church

From Amazon:

While the church today looks quite different than it did two thousand years ago, Christians share the same faith with the church fathers. Although separated by time and culture, we have much to learn from their lives and teaching.

What are you reading this Thanksgiving weekend?

 

 

 

The Man with the Key

A few weeks back, before the snow started to fly, a friend and I were walking around Long Lake Regional Park in New Brighton, one of my favorite places to walk. As we were walking I commented to her on the random pipes I’ve noticed sticking out of the ground — pipes that have lids on top of them and locks keeping those lids closed. I wondered if she knew what they were and she said she didn’t.

“Someone does,” I said. “In fact, in some office in some building in this county there is a man with a key!”

That was intriguing to me because in China to be in possession of a key is to be in possession of power. When trying to get something done, one of the most dreaded phrases you don’t want to hear is “the man with the key is not here,” which can either be a statement of fact or simply another way of saying “go away, I don’t want to deal with you.”

Where is the man with the key to these pipes, I wondered.

The next week, as I was walking in the park by myself, I spotted a pickup truck just off the path, and a man standing next to one of the pipes.

It was him! The man with the key!

I wandered into the woods where he was working and asked him to tell me about the pipes. He told me that they were old wells and his job was to monitor the water quality. Once upon a time there had been a refinery on the site and the state was making sure that their clean-up efforts were effective. He told me that he checks them twice per year, and when they are sure that there are no more contaminants then they will allow the nearby property to be developed.

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It was a great day. I had found the man with the key!

Happy Birthday “Beijing”

No, today is not the birthday of the founding of Beijing. That happened too far back in history to be able to pinpoint a date. Recorded history goes back around 4000 years and Peking Man dates back more than 200,000 years.

Qing Tombs

So why wish “Beijing” a “Happy Birthday?”

Well, because it was 36 years ago that the Chinese government decreed that henceforth all Chinese words written in English should use the Pinyin Romanization system instead of the Wade-Giles or Yale systems.

Peking became Beijing.

Canton became Guangzhou.

Mao Tse-tung became Mao Ze-dong.

Chou En-lai became Zhou En-lai.

36 years ago today, the Wall Street Journal published an article announcing and explaining these changes to its confused readers. Here’s how journalist Barry Kramer reported it:

“Foreigners reading about China in their own language may soon be scratching their heads over references to Chinese personalities such as Mao Ze-dong and Jiang Qing, or places such as Zhongqing and Beijing. Beijing’s State Council has taken another step toward simplification of China’s cumbersome written language by ordering that all publications printed in China in English, French, German,  Spanish, and other Roman-alphabet languages use only a standard phonetic transliteration system, called Pinyin, to spell names and places.”

You can read the entire Wall Street Journal article on the Today in WSJ History page here.

I wrote about the difference between Peking and Beijing (spelling, of course) in post back in 2010, explaining that the characters didn’t change, only the approved romanization of the characters:

The more complicated (and accurate) response is that in Chinese it didn’t really change. Before the 1970’s the name of the city in characters was 北京, and those characters are still the name of the city today. What changed in the 1970’s was the official pronunciation of those two characters.

The character 北 means ‘north’ or ‘northern.’ The character 京 means capital, so the two characters together mean ‘northern capital.’ The problem lies in the pronunciation of those two characters. In the dialect of northern China (around Beijing) they are pronounced bei and jing. In Cantonese (the dialect of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong) they are pronounced pe and king. Since written Chinese is ideographic, two people who speak different dialects can look at one character and both will know what means, even though they would pronounce them differently. This is the case with Beijing.

So as I said at the beginning, Happy Birthday “Beijing!”

Related Posts:

Beijing or Peking?

Imagine Learning Chinese without Pinyin