China is quickly becoming a major economic superpower and remains a popular tourist destination for its rich history and many historical sites. But China remains controlled by an authoritarian government. While China’s markets are becoming increasingly free, the state’s government remains Communist. Travelers to China must recognize the restrictions on speech and strict laws against certain political and social activities. But don’t worry. We have you covered here.
The U.S. State Department does not warn against travel to China. Nevertheless, there is a high-risk travel warning for all travelers to China from the U.S.Travelers should be aware of the differences in the laws between China and the U.S. In general in China, speaking against the government may be illegal, especially for foreigners. Chinese officials have much greater discretion in prosecuting individuals for violating Chinese law. Arbitrary enforcement of laws can make it difficult to know when one is violating law in China. It is best not to speak ill of Chinese officials or the Chinese government in general.
The threat of terrorism is considered moderate in China. This is normal for much of the world and does not represent a unique threat. Given China’s high population density, diversity of religions, and relatively undeveloped infrastructure for China’s massive population, there are naturally higher risks of terrorism and epidemic. There are also very high pollution risks in the urban areas of China. While pollution levels have decreased as China transitions to a “greener” state, the country’s largest cities are still plagued by smog, water pollution, and other forms of air pollution. The risk of disease and pollution makes it sensible for many in China to wear protective masks, especially in highly populated areas. If you are sensitive to air pollution or simply want to avoid inhaling pollutants in China, then you might consider wearing a protective mask.
The threat of scams and petty theft is high in China. High population density coupled with many Chinese populations remaining impoverished has led to increases in crime in certain urban areas in China. When traveling through busy areas in China, travelers should be highly protective of their belongings. It is not uncommon for pickpocketers to try to lift items from the bags of passers-by. It is difficult to catch pickpocketers once they have stolen goods from an individual. It is better to protect one’s belongings by securing them in a safe location. Zipper bags are particularly vulnerable to being opened without the traveler knowing.
Scams are also very common in China. If someone is trying to sell items on the street in China, there is a chance that they are selling fenced or counterfeit goods. Travelers may openly accept the idea of purchasing counterfeit goods at very low costs, but there are major risks with doing so, especially when bringing such goods back to the U.S. Counterfeit goods in China may also be comprised of hazardous or dangerous materials so it is best to avoid counterfeit goods sold in China.
Despite China having a high-risk travel warning, if you know what to watch out for, travelling in China can be safe.