Keeping in Touch in China

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Chinese media infrastructure and telecommunications are largely controlled by three state-run enterprises – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. The result is that censorship is a reality, and expats will not be able to access services that they may have taken for granted back home such as Skype, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Having their media and communications controlled and closely monitored by the state is an adjustment for many expats trying to keep in touch in China. Nonetheless, the technology they use is among the most sophisticated in the world.

Landline telephone calls are free, and internet is fast and affordable. Many expats even access sites which are routinely blocked through free proxy server software.

Internet in China

In major cities such as Beijing, internet access is widely available through home connections, Internet cafés and free WiFi at many hotels, airports and restaurants.

Home users can choose between 3G connections or DSL connections through one of the three largest internet providers in China, which are Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.

Anyone can take out an internet subscription by applying at one of the providers’ outlets. Installation is generally fast, although the price often varies depending on location.

Proxy server software does the rounds within the expat community, and new arrivals need only ask expats who have been in the country for a while about what the best options are. Cautious citizens are, however, able to use Chinese social media sites such as Weibo if they prefer.

Instant messaging services are accessible, with QQ being the most popular platform.

Mobile phones in China

China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are also the biggest mobile phone operators in the country. Long-term contracts are a rarity and the majority of new arrivals get a pay-as-you-go package. Applicants will need to supply their passport and visa in order to buy a SIM card.

Some mobile packages are designed for specific cities. For instance, a Beijing SIM card might charge less for calls inside the city. Some packages may also charge for receiving calls, so it is important that expats make sure they understand the package they are applying for.

Landline telephones in China

China’s state telecoms providers are also the main landline telephone providers. Expats who sign up for a DSL connection with one of the three companies may also get a free landline connection, and having a landline and an Internet connection installed at the same time is a common practice. Local landline-to-landline calls are usually free.

English media in China

English-language media in China is easily accessible, if limited. The CCTV news channel provides around the clock coverage in English and is known to be more liberal than most Chinese channels.

There are also several options in print media such as China Daily and China Times, as well as regional newspapers such as Shanghai Daily.

A wide selection of online resources is also available in English, telling the world about China, and helping Chinese people improve their English.

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