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.

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