North Korea: China shares a lengthy border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea or DPRK), a country with which the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations. If you cross into North Korea, even inadvertently, you will become subject to North Korean law.
Commercial Disputes: If you or your company becomes involved in a civil business dispute in China, the Chinese government may prohibit you from leaving China, without advance notice, and until the matter is resolved. There are cases of U.S. citizens being prevented from leaving China for months and even years while the dispute is ongoing. In some cases, defendants have even been put into police custody pending resolution of their civil cases. Some local businesspeople who feel that they have been wronged by a foreign business partner may hire "debt collectors" to harass and intimidate the foreigner or his/her family in hopes of collecting the debt. Foreign managers or company owners have in some cases been physically detained as leverage during dispute negotiations. The Embassy and consulates general can provide a list of local attorneys who can be hired to provide counsel. Please note that U.S. Embassy and consulates are unable to intervene in civil cases, nor are local law enforcement authorities generally willing to become involved in what they consider business matters. For information on commercial contracts and disputes and for general assistance, please consult the U.S. Commercial Service website for China.
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. Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business-sensitive information may be taken and shared with local interests.
Natural gas: U.S. citizens who rent apartments with gas appliances should be aware that, in some areas, natural gas is not scented to warn occupants of gas leaks or concentrations. In addition, heaters may not always be well vented, allowing excess carbon monoxide to build up in living spaces. Fatal accidents involving U.S. citizens have occurred. If you plan to live in China, you should ensure all gas appliances are properly vented or install gas and carbon monoxide detectors in your residence. These devices are not widely available in China, and if possible, you should purchase them prior to your arrival.
Cell phones: In China, most people use cell phones for calls and SMS messaging. Telephones and SIM cards are widely available, and minutes can be purchased at many convenience stores. Vendors require identification from anyone purchasing a SIM card, and the purchaser's identity is registered with the government.
Internet access: The Internet is used widely throughout China. Most hotels, even in remote areas, offer Internet access, often for a fee. Low-cost cyber cafes or Internet bars are widely available and are often open 24 hours a day. You may have to show your passport and have your photo taken before you can log on. Many websites are blocked, including social networking sites such as Facebook, and you can expect that your Internet activity may be monitored.
Contracts: Anyone entering into a commercial or employment contract in China should first 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. Many U.S. citizens have reported difficulty getting their contracts enforced by Chinese courts, and others have reported being forced out of profitable joint ventures and being unable to secure legal recourse in China. If you or your company are the subject of a court order requiring you to pay a settlement in a legal case, failure to make this payment may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until payment is made.
English/Secondary School Teachers: English teachers in China frequently report being recruited through misrepresentations or having contract disputes which can result in termination, lost wages, having school authorities confiscate their passports, forced eviction from housing, and even threats of violence. It is important to research the school at which you will be teaching and also to make sure that you have the proper visa to legally teach English in China. Do not accept a one-way airline ticket from a school to teach English in China, as some U.S. citizens have reported that the school never provided their airfare home. If you do have a dispute with your school, you may wish to consult with or hire a local attorney; seek assistance from the police if your safety is threatened. Prospective teachers are encouraged to read the Teaching in China Guide on the U.S. Embassy's American Citizen Services website.
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.
Air Quality in China: Air pollution is a significant problem in many cities and regions in China. Pollutants such as particle pollution and ozone are linked to a number of significant health effects, and those effects are likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including people with heart or lung disease, children, and older adults. While the quality of air can differ greatly between cities or between urban and rural areas, U.S. citizens living in or traveling to China may wish to consult their doctor when living in or prior to traveling to areas with significant air pollution.
The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection provides its own air quality data for cities throughout China. You can view the information at http://english.mep.gov.cn.
The U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulates in Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai make air quality data available to the U.S. citizen community. View these data from the following links:
*U.S. Embassy Beijing air quality data: http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/070109air.html
*U.S. Consulate in Chengdu air quality data: http://chengdu.usembassy-china.org.cn/air-quality-monitor4.html
*U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou air quality data: http://guangzhou.usembassy-china.org.cn/guangzhou-air-quality-monitor.html
*U.S. Consulate in Shanghai air quality data: http://shanghai.usembassy-china.org.cn/airmonitor.html
*U.S. Consulate in Shenyang air quality data: www.twitter.com/shenyang_air
Typhoons: The southeast coast of China is subject to strong typhoons and tropical storms, usually from July through September. For current information about typhoons and tropical storms, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu and the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Earthquakes: China is a seismically active country, and earthquakes occur throughout the country. Notable earthquakes include one in Qinghai in 2010 in which 3,000 people were killed and a major quake in Sichuan in 2008 when more than 87,000 people perished. U.S. citizens should make contingency plans and leave emergency contact information with family members outside of China.