People's Republic of China
Name: People's Republic of China
Conventional short form: China
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8 (Beijing Time.)
Government type: Communist state
Head of State: President
Language: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects
Religion: Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%
Official Currency: Yuan
Administrative divisions: 23 provinces (Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang), 5 autonomous regions (Guangxi, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Xizang (Tibet)), and 4 municipalities (Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Tianjin)
China is the world's third- or fourth-largest country in total area (after Russia, Canada, and the United States), and is the second largest country by land area.
The earliest recorded human settlements in what is today called China were discovered in the Huang He basin and date from about 5000 B.C. During the Shang dynasty (1500-1000 B.C.), the precursor of modern China's ideographic writing system developed, allowing the emerging feudal states of the era to achieve an advanced stage of civilization, rivaling in sophistication any society found at the time in Europe, the Middle East, or the Americas. It was following this initial flourishing of civilization, in a period known as the Chou dynasty (1122-249 B.C.), that Lao-tse, Confucius, Mo Ti, and Mencius laid the foundation of Chinese philosophical thought.
The feudal states, often at war with one another, were first united under Emperor Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, during whose reign (246-210 B.C.) work was begun on the Great Wall of China, a monumental bulwark against invasion from the West. Although the Great Wall symbolized China's desire to protect itself from the outside world, under the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), the civilization conducted extensive commercial trading with the West.
In the T'ang dynasty (618-907)-often called the golden age of Chinese history-painting, sculpture, and poetry flourished, and woodblock printing, which enabled the mass production of books, made its earliest known appearance. The Mings, last of the native rulers (1368-1644), overthrew the Mongol, or Yuan, dynasty (1271-1368) established by Kublai Khan. The Mings in turn were overthrown in 1644 by invaders from the north, the Manchus.
China remained largely isolated from the rest of the world's civilizations, closely restricting foreign activities. By the end of the 18th century only Canton (location of modern-day Hong Kong) and the Portuguese port of Macao were open to European merchants. But with the first Anglo-Chinese War in 1839-1842, a long period of instability and concessions to Western colonial powers began. Following the war, several ports were opened up for trading, and Hong Kong was ceded to Britain. Treaties signed after further hostilities (1856-1860) weakened Chinese sovereignty and gave foreigners immunity from Chinese jurisdiction. European powers took advantage of the disastrous Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 to gain further trading concessions from China. Peking's response, the Boxer Rebellion (1900), was suppressed by an international force.
The death of Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi in 1908 and the accession of the infant emperor Hsьan T'ung (Pu-Yi) were followed by a nationwide rebellion led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Manchus and became the first president of the Provisional Chinese Republic in 1911. Dr. Sun resigned in favor of Yuan Shih-k'ai, who suppressed the Republicans in a bid to consolidate his power. Yuan's death in June 1916 was followed by years of civil war between rival militarists and Dr. Sun's Republicans. Nationalist forces, led by General Chiang Kai-shek and with the advice of Communist experts, soon occupied most of China, setting up the Kuomintang regime in 1928. Internal strife continued, however, and Chiang eventually broke with the Communists.
On Sept. 18, 1931, Japan launched an invasion of Manchuria, capturing the province. Tokyo set up a puppet state dubbed Manchukuo and installed the last Manchu emperor, Henry Pu-Yi (Hsьan T'ung), as its nominal leader. Japanese troops moved to seize China's northern provinces in July 1937 but were resisted by Chiang, who had been able to use the Japanese invasion to unite most of China behind him. Within two years, however, Japan had seized most of the nation's eastern ports and railways. The Kuomintang government retreated first to Hankow and then to Chungking, while the Japanese set up a puppet government at Nanking, headed by Wang Jingwei.
Japan's surrender to the Western Allies in 1945 touched off civil war between the Kuomintang forces under Chiang and Communists led by Mao Zedong, who had been battling since the 1930s for control of China. Despite U.S. aid, the Kuomintang were overcome by the Soviet-supported Communists, and Chiang and his followers were forced to flee the mainland, establishing a government-in-exile on the island of Formosa (Taiwan). The Mao regime proclaimed the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949, with Beijing as the new capital and Zhou Enlai as premier.
After the Korean War began in June 1950, China led the Communist bloc in supporting North Korea, and on Nov. 26, 1950, the Mao regime sent troops to assist the North in its efforts to capture the South.
In an attempt to restructure China's primarily agrarian economy, Mao undertook the "?Great Leap Forward" campaign in 1958, a disastrous program that aimed to combine the establishment of rural communes with a crash program of village industrialization. The Great Leap forced the abandonment of farming activities, leading to widespread famine in which more than 20 million people died of malnutrition.
In 1959, a failed uprising against China's invasion and occupation of Tibet forced Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and 100,000 of his followers to flee to India. The invasion of Tibet and a perceived rivalry for the leadership of the world Communist movement caused a serious souring of relations between China and the USSR, former allies. In 1965 Tibet was formally made an autonomous region of China. China's harsh religious and cultural persecution of Tibetans, which continues to this day, has spawned growing international protest.
The failure of the Great Leap Forward touched off a power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party between Mao and his supporters and a reformist faction including future premier Deng Xiaoping. Mao moved to Shanghai, and from that base he and his supporters waged what they called the Cultural Revolution. Beginning in the spring of 1966, Mao ordered the closing of schools and the formation of ideologically pure Red Guard units, dominated by youths and students. The Red Guards campaigned against "old ideas, old culture, old habits, and old customs". Millions died as a series of violent purges were carried out. By early 1967, the Cultural Revolution had succeeded in bolstering Mao's position as China's paramount leader.
Anxious to exploit the Sino-Soviet rift, the Nixon administration made a dramatic announcement in July 1971 that National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger had secretly visited Beijing and reached an agreement whereby Nixon would visit China. The movement toward reconciliation, which signaled the end of the U.S. containment policy toward China, provided momentum for China's admission to the UN. Despite U.S. opposition to expelling Taiwan (Nationalist China), the world body overwhelmingly voted to oust Taiwan in favor of Beijing's Communist government.
President Nixon went to Beijing for a week early in 1972, meeting Mao as well as Zhou. The summit ended with a historic communiquй on Feb. 28, in which both nations promised to work toward improved relations. Full diplomatic relations were barred by China as long as the U.S. continued to recognize the legitimacy of Nationalist China.
Following Zhou's death on Jan. 8, 1976, his successor, Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, was supplanted within a month by Hua Guofeng, former minister of public security. Hua became permanent premier in April. In Oct. he was named successor to Mao as chairman of the Communist Party. But Mao's death on Sept. 10 unleashed the bitter intraparty rivalries that had been suppressed since the Cultural Revolution. Old opponents of Mao launched a campaign against his widow, Jiang Qing, and three of her "radical" colleagues. The so-called Gang of Four was denounced for having undermined the party, the government, and the economy. They were tried and convicted in 1981. Meanwhile, in 1977, Deng Xiaoping was reinstated as deputy premier, chief of staff of the army, and member of the Central Committee of the Politburo.
Beijing and Washington announced full diplomatic relations on Jan. 1, 1979, and the Carter administration abrogated the Taiwan defense treaty. Deputy Premier Deng sealed the agreement with a visit to the U.S. that coincided with the opening of embassies in both capitals on March 1. On Deng's return from the U.S., Chinese troops invaded and briefly occupied an area along Vietnam's northern border. The action was seen as a response to Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and ouster of the Khmer Rouge government, which China had supported.
In 1981, Deng protйgй Hu Yaobang replaced Hua Guofeng as party chairman. Deng became chairman of the Central Committee's military commission, giving him control over the army. The body's 215 members concluded the session with a statement holding Mao Zedong responsible for the "grave blunder" of the Cultural Revolution.
Under Deng Xiaoping's leadership, meanwhile, China's Communist ideology went through a massive reinterpretation, and sweeping economic changes were set in motion in the early 1980s. The Chinese scrapped the personality cult that idolized Mao Zedong, muted Mao's old call for class struggle and exportation of the Communist revolution, and imported Western technology and management techniques to replace the Marxist tenets that had slowed modernization.
The removal of Hu Yaobang as party chairman in Jan. 1987 signaled a hard-line resurgence within the party. Hu - who had become a hero to many reform-minded Chinese - was replaced by former premier Zhao Ziyang. With the death of Hu in April 1989, the ideological struggle spilled into the streets of the capital, as student demonstrators occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square in May, calling for democratic reforms. Less than a month later, the demonstrations were crushed in a bloody crackdown as troops and tanks moved into the square and fired on protesters, killing several hundred.
In annual sessions of the rubber-stamp National People's Congress in 1992 and 1993, the government called for accelerating the drive for economic reform, but the sessions were widely seen as an effort to maintain China's moves toward a market economy while retaining political authoritarianism. At the session in 1993, Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin was elected president, while hard-liner Li Peng was reelected to another five-year term as prime minister. Since 1993, the Chinese economy has continued to grow rapidly.
Deng Xiaoping's death in Feb. 1997 left a younger generation in charge of managing the enormous country. In 1998, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji introduced a sweeping program to privatize state-run businesses and further liberalize the nation's economy, a move lauded by Western economists.
On July 1, 1997, when Britain's lease on the New Territories expired, Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty, and in 1999, the Portuguese colony of Macao also was returned to Chinese rule.
In Nov. 2002, Vice President Hu Jintao became general secretary of the Communist Party at the 16th Party Congress, succeeding President Jiang. Hu Jintao also assumed the presidency in March 2003.
Government officials announced in December that China's economy had grown by 9% in 2005. China is poised to have the world's fourth-largest economy, after the United States, Japan, and Germany.
In May 2006, China completed construction on the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. More than a million people will be displaced when the area is flooded. In July 2006, China opened a $4.2-billion, 710-mile-long railway from Qinghai Province to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The highest railway in the world, it ascends as high as 16,500 ft, requiring all compartments to have regulated oxygen levels. The railway will increase ethnic Chinese migration into Tibet, which many see as a deliberate attempt to dilute Tibetan culture.
The People's Republic of China - PRC - is the fourth largest in area with territory that extends over 9.6 million km2. China has a land border 22,000 kilometers long and a sea border of 18,000 meters. It has over 6,500 islands.
China's topography was completely formed around the emergence of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the most important geological event over the past several million years. Taking a bird's-eye view of China, the terrain gradually descends from west to east like a staircase. Due to the collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates, the young Qinghai-Tibet Plateau rose continuously to become the top of the four-step "staircase", averaging more than 4,000 m above sea level, and called "the roof of the world". Soaring 8,848 m above sea level on the plateau is Mt. Qomolangma, the world's highest peak and the main peak of the Himalayas. The second step includes the gently sloping Inner Mongolia Plateau, the Loess Plateau, the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the Tarim Basin, the Junggar Basin and the Sichuan Basin, with an average elevation of between 1,000 m and 2,000 m. The third step, dropping to 500-1,000 m in elevation, begins at a line drawn around the Greater Hinggan, Taihang, Wushan and Xuefeng mountain ranges and extends eastward to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Here, from north to south, are the Northeast Plain, the North China Plain and the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain. Interspersed amongst the plains are hills and foothills. To the east, the land extends out into the ocean, in a continental shelf, the fourth step of the staircase. The water here is less than 200 m deep. The area of mountains and hills and plateaus account for 65 percent of the total land area of China.
The useful information
All foreigners must take their valid passports with them when entering China; They should also apply for an visa in China's diplomatic institutions, consular offices and Chinese institutions authorized by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After they have obtained such visas, foreigners can travel in all the open cities across China.
Port visa is a necessary supplement in handling visa by Chinese diplomatic institutions stationed abroad, and enables those foreigners who want to enter China for emergency matters but fail to apply for a visa before hand, to obtain a visa in the port at where they arrive.
To provide convenience for foreigners who come to China on matter of urgency, China has set up port visa institutions in some open cities and regions. Foreigners, having letters or telegrams authorized by Chinese units, passports of countries with diplomatic relations or official trade relations with China, and must come to China at once but have no time to apply for a visa at Chinese diplomatic institutions stationed abroad, may apply for a visa at ports designated by the relative institutes of the Chinese government.
Those under the following conditions may apply for a visa at ports
- At a provisional decision of the Chinese side to come to China to attend trade fairs;
- Invited to China to take part in bidding or formal signing of economic and trade contracts;
- According to contracts to come to China to inspect import and export commodity inspection or check contracts;
- Invited to take part in installation or emergency engineering repairing;
- Invited by the Chinese side to solve the problem of indemnity;
- Invited to China to provide technological consultation;
- Delegations or groups that have arrived in China with visas, but have to make changes with the approval of the Chinese side;
- Looking after invalids who are critically ill or attending funeral arrangements;
- Those who just pass through China but cannot leave within 24 hours with the original plane due to irresistible cause or should leave China through other means of transportation ;
- Invited to China but really have to time to apply for a visa with Chinese diplomatic institutions stationed abroad and with letters or telegrams of designated departments agreeing them to apply for a visa in ports.
Ports designated to handle visa by the Ministry of Public Security are the following: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Dalian, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Xi'an, Guilin, Hangzhou, Kunming, Guangzhou (Baiyun Airport), Shenzhen (Luohu, Shekou), Zhuhai (Gongbei), Haikou City, Sanya City, Qingdao City, Yantai City, and Weihai City.
No visa is necessary for foreign passengers with through tickets who transit China by international flight or passengers who stay in China's airports for less than 24 hours.
The types of visas can be classified into: diplomatic visa, courteous visa, service visa and general visa according to the status and types of passports held by aliens coming to China.
Among them, general visas are divided into:
1. D visa for aliens who are permitted to immigrate to China;
2. Z visa for aliens who come to China for a public post or employment as well as their family members traveling with them;
3. X visa for aliens who come to China for over six months of study, training and internship;
4. F visa for aliens who come to China for visit, inspection, lecture, business, scientific, technological or cultural exchanges or less than six months of training or internship at the invitation of Chinese organizations;
5. L visa for aliens who come to China for tourism, visiting relatives or other personal affairs. Among them, tourist groups of over nine members can be granted team visas;
6. G visa for people who transit China;
7. C visa for crew members in international trains, airplanes or ships and their spouses on entourage;
8. J-1 visa for foreign journalists who serve as resident correspondents in China, J-2 visa for foreign journalists in China for short stays.
Aliens must answer inquiries related and present the following documents:
1. Valid passports or their equivalent certificates;
2. Fill in visa application forms and present two recent half-length, full-face and bareheaded photos;
3. Present documents associated with applying for entry and transit.
There are two channels, red and green, in China customs. Take the red one if you have something to declare, otherwise the green one. If you are uncertain which channel you should take, then take the red one.
If you take the red channel the customs officer will check to see whether you have to pay duty, deposit the items at Customs, or allow you to take them into China but take them out on your departure. If you take things such as computers, cameras, video cameras, gold and silver, printed or recorded materials, or anything more than you need during your travel in China, you have to fill in the "Customs Luggage Declaration Form". Similarly, if you are planning to leave any sort of significant item behind, you should also fill out the form.
A copy of the form must be retained by the traveler and be submitted to Customs when leaving the country. All the items declared on the form must be brought out of China or else import duty will be charged on them.
Visitors are allowed to carry into China a limited quantity of duty-free goods including:
- 2 liters of alcoholic beverages
- 400 cigarettes
- 50g (2 ounces) of gold or silver
- US$ less than 5,000
- Chinese RMB with a total value less than 6000 yuan
- Reasonable amount of perfume
- 1 still camera and reasonable amount of film
Prohibited imports include: fresh fruit, arms, ammunition and explosives, printed matter, films ortapes "detrimental to China", narcotic drugs, animals and plants.
Outside main centres, all water used for drinking, brushing teeth or freezing should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Pork, salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Bilharzia (schistosomiasis) is endemic in the central Yangtze river basin. Avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water; swimming pools that are well chlorinated and maintained are safe. There is some risk of plague. Hepatitis E is prevalent in northeastern and northwestern China and hepatitis A is common across the country. Hepatitis B is highly endemic. Tuberculosis is common in indigenous populations. Oriental liver fluke (clonorchiasis), oriental lung fluke (paragonimiasis) and giant intestinal fluke (fasciolopsiasis) are reported, and brucellosis also occurs. Bancroftian and brugian filariasis are still reported in southern China, visceral leishmaniasis is increasingly common throughout, and cutaneous leishmaniasis has been reported from Xinjiang. Haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome is endemic. Precautions should be taken against Japanese encephalitis, particularly in rural areas. Mite-borne or scrub typhus may be found in scrub areas of southern China. Altitude sickness can be a problem in parts of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Yannan. There are still habitual occurrences of avian influenza (bird flu) and the SARS virus.
Rabies is present, although the Government policy that bans dogs and cats from main cities makes this less of a risk in these areas. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. For more information, consult the Health appendix.
Medical costs are low. Many medicines common to Western countries are unavailable in China. Medical facilities in international hospitals are excellent. There are many traditional forms of medicine used in China, the most notable being acupuncture. Medical insurance is strongly advised.
RMBY is not traded outside China. Foreign banknotes and traveller's cheques can be exchanged at branches of The Bank of China. In hotels and Friendship Stores for tourists, imported luxury items such as spirits may be bought with Western currency. Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes cannot be exchanged.
Credit & debit cards
American Express, Diners Club, Eurocard/MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in major provincial cities in designated establishments. However, the availability of ATMs is often limited, and the acceptance of credit cards often unlikely away from the major cities.
To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.
Import and export of local currency is limited to RMBY 20000. Import of foreign currency is up to US$ 1000 (US$ 5000 for non-residents). Higher amounts should be declared upon arrival. Export of foreign currency is limited to the amount imported and declared.
Mon-Fri 09.00-12.00, 14.00-17.00
Buses are still major public transportation means in all large cities of China. There are normally dozens of routes of buses in large cities. The buses are generally named with Arabic figures, e.g., Buses of Route 1, Route 15 and Route 320. Given the large numbers of passengers, crowded roads and complicated routes, it is not easy for a foreign newcomer to take a correct bus in China.
Buses in urban areas normally operate between 5:00 local time in the morning and 23:00 local time at night each day. There is normally an interval of 5 to 10 minutes between every two buses. During the rush hour, the interval is shortened to two or three minutes; namely, a bus is dispatched in every two or three minutes.
Passengers shall buy tickets from bus conductors. The prices of bus tickets vary in accordance with different numbers of stops.
Over recent years, some large Chinese cities have started to operate a number of air-conditioned coaches and unwatched buses on busy tourist routes, whose ticket prices are normally two to three times those of general buses but are significant lower than taxi fares. Therefore, such coaches and buses can well be a good choice for tourists.
The four largest Chinese cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou - all boast well-equipped subway systems, with all the stations, ticket-booking offices and transit points clearly marked with their names both in Chinese and English. In every subway train, travel information is read alternately in Chinese and English.
The subway transportation operates 18 hours per day, normally between 5:10 and 23:30 local time, with an interval of four to six minutes between every two trains. The hours between 6:30 and 8:30 and between 17:00 and 19:00 are the morning and evening rush hours respectively.
Mini-buses are another transportation means in Chinese cities auxiliary to buses and trolley buses, shuttling in major commercial areas, tourist areas, railway stations and major communications trunk lines. One can stop a mini-bus by merely waving the hand while passengers can ask for a stop at any nearest point. Generally, there are fewer mini-bus stations than bus stations. However, mini-buses travel faster than buses. Mini-bus ticket prices are sometimes seasonally adjustable.
With large numbers of taxis running around, it is very convenient to take taxis in all large Chinese cities. It is not very expensive to hire a taxi in China. There are taxi companies in most of the urban areas in Chinese cities. Taxis are available at any time around big hotels, guesthouses, railway stations, airports, major communications trunk lines and busy commercial areas. There is the time taxi service, which is available at any time at the request of passengers. One can also reserve a taxi by phone. However, the time taxi service is more expensive than the general service.
In China, taxi services are normally chargeable according to the mileage completed and the time used. When a passenger embarks on a taxi, the taximeter will begin to indicate a basic rate chargeable. After running four to six kilometers, the fare payable will increase progressively in line with the mileage completed, with the fare chargeable for each kilometer varying according to the size and grade of the vehicle. When the taxi runs at a speed slower than a certain standard, an extra charge will be added to the basic rate chargeable on a minute-counting basis. Besides, a percentage of night driving fee is chargeable for services between 23:00 of each day and 5:00 of the following day.
When taking a taxi, the passenger should first of all ask the driver to switch on the taximeter. When arriving at the place of destination, the passenger should ask the driver to write a receipt to prevent possible unfair charge. Secondly, if anything unhappy involving the service occurs, the passenger can write down the plate number of the taxi and lodge a complaint to competent authorities.
In the past, it was not very comfortable to take a train in China. Today, things have changed after the Chinese government invested heavily in building and rebuilding railways, increasing the running speed of trains and expanding the transportation capacity of railway systems. Consequently, the operation of railway transportation has been relatively greatly improved. Many slow lines have been changed to "leaving in the morning and arriving at evening," thus improving the travel service, raising efficiency and increasing the competitive edge of the trains.
In China, passenger trains are divided into three classes - the hard-seat class, the hard-couchette class and the soft-couchette class. An adult passenger is allowed to carry 20 kilograms of luggage free of charge each time taking a train, a child 10 kilograms and a diplomat 35 kilograms. The weight in excess of these standards will be chargeable for the luggage consignment fee. Over recent years, in an effort to further protect the safety of passengers, railway stations in some large Chinese cities have newly installed X-ray detecting equipment at the entrance of stations to scan the luggage. Passengers entering the station shall have their luggage checked by the equipment under the guidance of security officers at the station.
Train tickets, particularly tickets for the couchette classes, should normally be booked in advance. Following the coming of the Internet period, train tickets can be booked through Internet in large cities in China, and this no doubt is convenient for passengers. Foreign travelers wishing to take trains can book tickets through travel agencies or hotels.
The climate of China is extremely diverse; subtropical in the south to subarctic in the north.
Monsoon winds, caused by differences in the heat-absorbing capacity of the continent and the ocean, dominate the climate. Alternating seasonal air-mass movements and accompanying winds are moist in summer and dry in winter. The advance and retreat of the monsoons account in large degree for the timing of the rainy season and the amount of rainfall throughout the country. Tremendous differences in latitude, longitude, and altitude give rise to sharp variations in precipitation and temperature within China. Although most of the country lies in the temperate belt, its climatic patterns are complex.
China's northernmost province Heilongjiang has a subarctic climate; its southernmost point, Hainan Island (an island away from mainland China), has a tropical climate. Temperature differences in winter are great, but in summer the diversity is considerably less. For example, the northern portions of Heilongjiang Province experience an average January mean temperature of below 0°C, and the reading may drop to minus 30°C; the average July mean in the same area may exceed 20 °C. By contrast, the central and southern parts of Guangdong Province experience an average January temperature of above 10 °C, while the July mean is about 28 °C.
Precipitation varies regionally even more than temperature. China south of the Qinling mountains experiences abundant rainfall, most of it coming with the summer monsoons. To the north and west of the range, however, rainfall is uncertain. The farther north and west one moves, the scantier and more uncertain it becomes. The northwest has the lowest annual rainfall in the country and no precipitation at all in its desert areas.
Everywhere in China 220 Volt and 50 Hz AC current supplies are used.
Today, attitudes towards tipping are changing. Although the practice is not officially recognised, tips are now frequently offered to and accepted by travel guides, tour bus drivers, porters and waiters in top-class hotels and restaurants.
However, tipping is still not expected in most restaurants and hotels. So ask the guide whether a tip is necessary and how much when you are uncertain. Sometimes, small gifts such as paperbacks, cassette tapes and western cigarettes appear to be preferred. Note that it is part of the polite ritual that any gift or tip initially will be firmly rejected.
Consumer taxes are included in price tags on goods but big hotels and fine restaurants may include a service charge of 10% or more.
Typical "Chinese" goods such as silk, personalized printing blocks, jade, tea and porcelain are easily found and obtained in all parts of China. There are many choices to keep your shopping intentions occupied. Haggling was never the norm before, but due to the greatly overpriced goods offered nowadays, it would be wise to bargain or compare prices in the free markets. If you're an antique enthusiast, China will be a place after your own heart with so many antiques and curio shops abound. Nevertheless, it is essential to check that the official red seal of the shop is on the product. If not, it will pose a lot of problems buying and exporting antiques without this stamp. Go to smaller towns in China where ethnic minorities live and you will find a wide selection of craft objects for daily use or specially embroidered garments.
All consumer prices are set by the Government, and there is no price bargaining in shops and department stores, although it is possible to bargain fiercely in small outdoor markets (of which there are many) for items such as jade, antique ceramics and also silk garments. All antiques over 100 years old are marked with a red wax seal by the authorities, and require an export customs certificate. The antique market in Changqing opens everyday. Access to normal shops is available, offering inexpensive souvenirs, work clothes, posters and books; this will prove much easier if accompanied by an interpreter, although it is possible to point or get the help of a nearby English-speaker. Items are sometimes in short supply, but prices will not vary much from place to place. In large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, there are big department stores with four or five floors, selling a wide range of products. The best shopping is in local factories, shops and hotels specializing in the sale of handicrafts. Arts and crafts department stores offer local handicrafts. Special purchases include jade jewelry, embroidery, calligraphy, paintings and carvings in wood, stone and bamboo. Shop personnel often pack and arrange shipping for bulky items. It is advisable to keep receipts, as visitors may be asked to produce them at Customs prior to departure.