What Not to Do In China (To Avoid Chinese Jail)

Is visiting China high up on your bucket list? More and more American tourists are flocking to China to see the wonders the beautiful country has to offer. If you are a US citizen, you may be wondering, do US citizens need a visa for China? Well, the answer is yes; all American citizens need a visa for China. The most commonly issued visa for American tourists is a 10 year China visa.

The natural beauty of China's rice fields. See this today when you receive your 10 year china visa!

Because all US citizens need a visa for China, before any trip can even begin, all US tourists entering the country must obtain a 10 year China visa, following all of the China visa requirements.

With so many incredible sites to see, food to eat, and people to meet, sometimes tourists forgo learning about China’s strict and occasionally unusual laws. While taking a photo, or reading a book may seem ordinary and innocent to a tourist coming from the US, doing it at the wrong time or place, or reading inappropriate material could result in jail time. Keep reading to find out what not to do in China to avoid ending up in a Chinese jail.

Entering and exiting China – What not to bring:

First, entering China without a valid 10 year China visa is illegal, and any persons entering the country without all of the China visa requirements will be turned away. Be aware at all times of what you have in your luggage. Above all, keep your baggage on you at all times to avoid it being tampered with. The following items are not allowed in China and being caught with any of these items may lead to serious consequences.

  • Recreational drugs: They may be legal where you come from, but China has a zero tolerance, and there are particularly harsh penalties for drug importation, including jail time.
  • Wildlife: Hopefully, you won’t be bringing any live critters back with you, but if you are found with a species of Chinese wildlife in your possession, the punishments are stiff.
  • Inappropriate reading material: Any books, magazines, or newspapers deemed less than favorable toward China or their government, may be confiscated. While you won’t end up in a cell for bringing an anti-government book on board your flight, it will most likely be thrown out. In extreme cases, the official can decide to turn you back from entering the country.
  • Ancient artifacts: While it’s quite unlikely you will get your hands on a genuine ancient relic if in any case you do, it’s punishable by law. China has strict laws prohibiting the exportation of antiques.

What not to do on your trip to China:

If you are coming from the states, there are some cultural differences, laws, and general rules which need to be abided by. Some seemingly innocent things that China has banned could result in jail time for unknowing tourists. Follow these guidelines to avoid ending up in a Chinese jail. Always remember, Chinese culture is quite different from what we are used to in the states, so while something may seem harmless to you, to a Chinese person it could be offensive. All US citizens need a visa for China, so, if an incident occurs and you’re are being questioned or detained for any reason, always keep all proper documentation readily available.


Under Chinese law, gambling is officially illegal. However, a number of different organizations participate in the act, like unofficial lotteries, and clandestine casinos. This is particularly risky for a US citizen to dabble in, with the language barrier and strict Chinese laws, anyone caught gambling may face serious jail time. Always keep a copy of your passport, 10 year China visa on your person at all times, and keep China visa requirements documents easily accessible.  

Enter restricted military areas:

While it could be an innocent mistake stumbling upon military establishments, without warning, you may run into an angry military officer. Sometimes military areas can pop up unexpectedly, without any warning signs in English, often not even warning signs in Chinese. If this does happen, simply let the army official know it was a mistake and try to be as polite as possible. Hopefully, they will be able to find someone to assist in English. You may be asked to show multiple forms of ID, such as your passport, driver’s license, and proof of your 10 year china visa.

Another rule to abide by here is do not under any circumstances point your camera at a military establishment in China. Instead, walk past as if you didn’t notice or see a thing. Taking photos could result in harsh repercussions. Walking past a military establishment can be explained as an innocent mistake, especially for unknowing guests, but taking pictures of a military area is a direct violation of Chinese law, and is commonly reinforced.

10 surprising things banned in China:

Despite its popularity in the States, the Big Bang Theory is banned in China!

While what’s on this list may not qualify for jail time, it’s interesting what the Chinese government deems unfit, did you ever think a TV show would be banned in the US, or how about your favorite social media platform? You won’t find any of the following items on the list below during your next trip to China.

  1. Facebook
  2. “The Big Bang Theory”
  3. Snapchat
  4. Movies about time travel
  5. Twitter
  6. Siblings (In 2016, a law passed only allowing two children per family)
  7. Pinterest
  8. Foreign Films
  9. E-Books
  10. Casinos

So, are you ready to fly yet? All US citizens need a visa for China, do you have your 10 year China visa prepared to go? Did you fill out all of the China visa requirements? Remember, China is an incredible country with so much to offer. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? Well, in China always be sure to respect their strong culture, follow their rules, as odd as they may seem, and show your appreciation for their country. Most US tourists don’t run into trouble as long as they abide by the country’s laws and regulations. Whether you’re traveling around town, hiking, sightseeing, or eating at a restaurant, having your 10 year China visa, passport, ID, and China visa requirement papers on you is always recommended.

What to do if you run into trouble?

Always remain calm when talking to any government officials and offer your remorse. Feel safe saying it was an honest mistake, and you did not know any better. Of course, educating yourself on all the ins and outs of Chinese law is always the smarter idea. So, before your trip grab a book or two on Chinese culture, their rules, and social norms to make your trip to China go as smoothly as possible. The amazing country has so much to offer, and by taking the necessary precautions, all US citizens traveling to China should not run into any trouble.

Bonus tips for your trip to China:

  • Bring a copy of your passport, and another form of ID
  • Bring a copy of your 10 year China visa
  • Take copies of all China visa requirement documents with you
  • Don’t let your 10 year China visa expire, if you need additional time or another 10 year China visa, you must leave the country to obtain a new one, by applying and filling out the China visa requirement forms
  • Always be polite and ask for assistance in English if you run into any issues with a Chinese government official

How to obtain a 10 year China visa:

All US citizens need a visa for China, and while the process may seem daunting, it’s actually quite routine and easy. Several visa expediting services can grant your 10 year China visa within a couple of weeks. If you are going with an online service, sites like chinavisadepartment.com make the process a breeze. Upon entering the website, you will be asked to choose which type of visa you require, all US citizens need a visa for China, and all tourists require a 10 year China visa. Following the quick guidelines on the site, you will be asked to fill out all China visa requirement forms and submit for approval. If for any reason, you are missing any of the China visa requirement forms, your 10 year China visa will be declined. Note that all tourists traveling to China without holding a 10 year China visa will be declined entry to the country.

When will I receive my 10 year China visa?

On average, once you fill out all of the China visa requirement forms, pay the 10 year China visa charge, and any other fees which may occur, your 10 year China visa should arrive within a couple of weeks. If for any reason not all of the forms were sent, or you are denied a visa, you may try again. However, each time you request a 10 year China visa, the process starts from scratch. Check out our FAQ for more info on obtaining a China visa.

Cultural Customs (US v China)

Is China your next destination? If so, you’re in for a treat. China is the oldest living civilization that still exists today and holds the record for the largest population. Home to some of the greatest wonders of the world, it’s no wonder China has people buzzing. With their rich history and a plethora of natives in the country, age-old customs and traditions are still practiced today. However, before you can begin your journey, getting a visa for China must be number one on your list. Some China visa requirement documents will need to be presented before a China visa can be issued, but don’t stress, the process is not as daunting as it sounds. Well, getting a visa for China was the easy part. Now, it’s time to start researching some unique facts about China that may surprise you. There are some major cultural differences between China and the United States. Educating yourself before your flight could save you some embarrassment while on your trip. Keep reading to find out may be a cultural norm for some, and a shock to others.

A westerner wandering around the crowded streets of China.

Top 10 Cultural Differences Between China and the United States

1. Dating – In China, marriage is not encouraged until the mid to late twenties. Not only that but dating is also discouraged for teenagers and young adults. American culture is much more relaxed in this regard, and dating is seen as a regular part of early adulthood and adolescent life. Some say Americans could potentially learn a thing or two about dating from the Chinese.

2. Confrontation – The Chinese people try to avoid confrontation at all costs in an effort to save face. In their culture, shouting causes both parties to lose face and can lead to permanent damage to any relationship. Americans, on the other hand, are more likely to be direct and literal, and sometimes view the way the Chinese solve problems confusing and frustrating. In business, Chinese colleagues will never go out of their way to prove a point, as it could embarrass their co-worker, but to Americans, the final outcome is more important than saving face for the other person.

3. Respect – Some might say Americans lack in this field and put more emphasis on themselves than on others. The opposite goes in Chinese culture, it is expected that respect is given to those all around, and their needs are met at each encounter. This goes for all aspects of their lives, whether it be with someone in a store, a bus driver, their family members or a boss. Everyone should be treated with the utmost honor, even more so if the person is an elder.

4. Treatment of senior citizens – In China, elders are held in great respect, both in business and in personal lives. It’s not uncommon in China to find families with several generations all under the same roof. Most of the time, children are expected to care for their elderly parents, and there are even laws requiring children to visit their parents regularly. The same respect goes in the workplace, you won’t find anyone ageist to older people in the business world in China; instead, they are celebrated and honored.

5. Time management – For most Americans, if a report is due on a Thursday, it means by the end of the day, the report should be on the boss’s desk. In China, that report can show up a few days later and no one would bat an eyelash. The same goes for meetings if a meeting is meant to commence at 4 pm, most Americans would be sure to be there at least a couple minutes before, however, the Chinese are notorious for having time as more of a suggestion than an absolute. This can prove to be quite difficult for any Americans traveling to China for a business meeting.

6. Personal space – With China being the most densely populated country in the world, it’s not a shock personal space is limited. Most Chinese are used to cramped transportation, massive crowds, and small living spaces. In China, it’s not considered rude or offensive to be physically close to a stranger, as it would be in the states. Some cities contain over 10 million residents, so the Chinese are quite used to living in close quarters with one another.

7. Honoring the dead – The Chinese are notorious in their respect and recognition for those in their family who have passed. Once a year, family members visit the gravesites for each of their ancestors to pay their respects. This contrasts American culture, mostly because the majority of Americans don’t know where their ancestors have been buried, due to immigration in the early years of the country. Since China’s culture is so much older, and immigration is uncommon, family members can trace their ancestors back for generations.

8. Tipping – Tipping is not customary in China in restaurants and other service industries. The Chinese take pride in being able to provide and take care of themselves, and while Americans see tipping as a nice gesture, it can be offensive to a Chinese person. For example, a waiter who received a tip in a restaurant may feel the diner left them extra money because they thought they were poor, even though it could have been an innocent mistake to an American guest.

9. Staring – While on your trip to China, you may expect to receive a few double takes or stares. In some parts of the country, visitors are still uncommon, and it creates curiosity for the residents. Don’t be shocked if they even take a photo without your permission, or ask to take a picture with you.

10. Gifts may be refused – If you try to give a Chinese person a present, it’s common they will refuse it up to three times. This is in an effort to show humbleness and gratuity to the gift giver.

There you have it! Are you excited for this once in a lifetime trip yet? After filling the China visa requirement paperwork is out of the way of getting a visa for China is a breeze. Within a few weeks, you can be experiencing all the wonders this exceptional country has to offer. Think of all the food you will taste, the sights you will see, and the places you’ll go! Check out our list below for a few extra bonus tips and tricks before your big trip.

Bonus Tips:

  • Getting a visa for China should be your top priority
  • Bring a copy of your valid passport/ID
  • Bring a copy of your China visa
  • Bring copies of all China visa requirement documents
  • Follow the cultural protocol
  • Use a translating app
  • Educate yourself on uncommon Chinese customs and traditions

What are the China visa requirements?

You'll need a passport to even begin the visa application, so make sure you have one!

The process of getting a China visa is easy, but to ensure your China visa is granted, make sure you have all of the following:

  1. Passport
  2. Passport Photo
  3. Drivers License
  4. Proof of Travel
  5. Hotel Confirmations

Getting a visa for China:

In order to obtain your China visa, a few China visa requirements must be filled out. If your passport is expiring within 6 months from the time your China visa is requested, you may need to renew your current passport before your China visa can be granted. Getting a visa for China doesn’t have to be a hassle, a number of top rated visa expediting services, like chinavisadepartment.com, are here to guide you throughout the entire China visa process. The goal of these expediting services is to make getting a China visa quick, painless, and hassle-free. After filling out all of the China visa requirements online, you may be asked to send in copies of photos, proof of travel, and accommodation receipts. If you have already received a China visa in the past, you will be asked to provide the original previous China visa. If you are traveling to China for business, additional China visa requirement documents may need to be provided in order to grant a China visa.

When will I get my China visa?

The whole process of getting a visa for China from start to finish is around 8-10 business days. However, if you are in need of your China visa sooner, priority services are available and getting a visa for China can be accomplished in as little as 3 business days, granted all of your China visa requirement documents are in order. The same goes for a business China visa, if all China visa requirements are met, the process can be completed in 2-3 business days.