How To Thrive in China

Home to more than a billion people, China has grown into a popular destination. As the world begins to open up, here is everything you need to know before your visit.

There has been a lot of speculation about how the word China originated. 

Most scholars think the word Chin was used in Sanskrit by ancient Indians while referring to China and came to be adopted by the Chinese much later for what is now known as the People’s Republic of China.

There is no explanation why the word Chin was used by the Indians.

Our article this week covers this country.


A Little Background

The civilization goes back to ancient times and was the largest economy in the world straight through to the 19th century and was ruled by various dynasties until it became a single party socialist republic in 1949.

After the civil war, which followed the war on China by Japan during WWII, China got divided into the present day countries of China and Taiwan.

As early as the 11th century, the country was highly populous with an estimated 100 million inhabitants most of whom were involved in advanced agriculture.

The country also gained great reputation in the areas of art, culture and trade. By the 14the century under the Ming dynasty they had already established trade routes as far as India and Africa.

In 2013 the country became the largest trading nation in the world and will go on gaining momentum to become the largest economy within the next 7 years by comfortably overtaking the U.S. 

With the disciplined opening of the economy which is as yet a controlled, outbound tourism from China had already reached 155 million by 2019 and a great many businesses across the world are, to an extent, dependent on tourists from this nation.

Not just that, tourist inflows including business visitors to China has reached 150 million making it the fourth most visited country after France, the U.S. and Spain. 

With no dearth of places to visit in this nation, most foreign tourists at the moment focus on the coastal and large inland cities. Thus far it is Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, Chengdu, Yunnand and Xi’an which are the most popular destinations.

This is slowly changing and more places such as Zhangiajie are becoming popular.

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Growing: China has one of the largest populations and economies in the world

The ideology and the economy of the country are still very much under the control of the government and due to this there are heavy restrictions in several areas, particularly the freedom of press, access to the internet, the right to reproduce and the freedom of religion.


Higher Education and International Students

This deserves a special mention. There are close to 3,000 colleges and universities with more than 20 million individuals enrolled for higher education.

There are almost half a million foreign students which makes China the second most popular in the world with international students. Not just that, many of the research universities have contributed significantly to science and technology and have published more papers than even the U.S.

From the E.U. it is the French who appear to be most attracted to the education system and comprise more than 2% of all international students.

Many of the courses are taught in English.

Shanghai and Beijing are the most favoured cities by international students.


What to do and what not to do in China

  • Passport holders of Australia, Canada, Ireland, most other EU countries, New Zealand and the US do not require a visa for a stay not exceeding 90 days. U.K. passport holders can stay visa free for 180 days and those from RSA for 30 days.

  • If you are from other parts of the world make sure to apply for a visa well in advance. Most especially if you or your spouse are journalists your application may be rejected.

  • It’s best to carry Euros or US dollars with you for your expenses and change the necessary amounts to Yuan at the airport. Debit and credit cards can be used at ATM’s of major international banks.

  • Once in China, use the public transport system for both local and long distance travel. It’s excellent. Their high speed trains are among the best in the world.

  • Only about 1% of Chinese speak English. So be prepared with a translator if a tourist or hire an interpreter if on business.

  • Enjoy the local Chinese food once there. It’s different from what is sold as Chinese in most parts of the world. In addition to the usual meats and tofu the Chinese eat dog meat, insects, snakes, fungi and many others. If you don’t have the stomach for it, there’s always KFC and McDonald’s.

  • Personal space in China is small. So don’t mind if people get too close.

  • Blowing your nose in public is considered disgusting.

  • Take it easy if you experience people breaking wind or spitting in public. This is accepted.
  • At many places the toilets will be flat similar to Turkish toilets, the squatting kind. Carry your own toilet paper.

  • Don’t present flowers or clocks to your hostess or host. White flowers are strictly for funerals and clocks are one way of telling them they have limited time on this planet. Artefacts, wines and whisky are well accepted.

  • If on business, respect hierarchy. On personal visits, respect the elders.

  • Never be late for a meeting.

  • Use both hands while presenting your business card and accepting your business associate’s card. While accepting a business card, read it and put it in your shirt or jacket pocket. Never in the hip pocket.

  • Shaking of hands in greeting is common.

  • Slurping on your soup is considered good. A little burp after the meal is welcome.

  • If invited for a meal to a restaurant, let the host pay. Do not offer to pay, it’s considered offensive.

  • Preferably learn to use chopsticks before you go. If you haven’t, ask for cutlery which is offered at most upmarket restaurants. Improper use of chopsticks is a no no. 

From China to India now, as we continue our travel guide series.

The Beauty of India

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