China: Country and Foreign Investment
Entry and Residence
This page was last updated on 1 July 2019.
Almost invariably, a visa must be obtained before arriving in the country. Visas can be for single entry or multiple entry. The most common types of visa are:
- F Visa: short-term business visits (in practice this type of visa has been used by many longer-stay residents prepared to persuade the authorities to look the other way, though the Beijing Olympics led to some tightening up)
- L Visa: short-term personal visits
- X Visa: students with courses longer than six months
- Z Visa: people taking up employment and their family members
- D Visa: long-term foreign residents.
Though there are concentrations of foreigners in some major cities, notably Beijing and Shanghai (which has 300,000 expats), where you can expect to find a parallel 'Western' life-style and facilities, in most parts of China that is not the case. This means you will have no choice but to adopt Chinese cultural habits, in terms of cooking for example. Few people speak English, so you won't get far without at least a basic level of a Chinese language. Of course, if you are employed in a site owned by a Western company, even in a remote region, the numbers other foreigners and Westernized facilities may dull the shock of a transition to China. Some people, however, may prefer to take on the change head on!
'Face' is the key to understanding Chinese society. It is necessary to be sensitive to the nuances of social and family position, in terms of conducting a conversation, body language, and in such matters as paying for things. Chinese people are not rich, with rare exceptions (more and more of these, of course), and Chinese salaries are still so low by Western standards that it may seem impossible for people to live on them. But they manage, and by some miracle will turn themselves out impeccably for social occasions. Don't be fooled: unless you are sure of the financial position of the people you are with, you should assume that you are the richest person present, and therefore expected to pay the bill, although other members of the party may make a show of offering to pay. Women, by the way, never, ever pay in China, unless they are at a hen party.