It’s Everywhere You Want To Be, Except For China

Getting a visa in China has, as I’ve mentioned before, become a very complicated process, and I’d cite it as another example of the whole Paradox of the Police State that I’ve mentioned before. Based on advice I’ve gotten from Westerners and locals alike, I finally decided to keep the tourist visa (for now), and simply try to extend it for the standard 30 day increment. This seems to be the easiest and cheapest option, given that the alternatives were either massive payments to private “visa agencies” or an even more expensive trip to Hong Kong.

Well, it appears that now, my options may be about to get even more limited. I’ve heard about this from rumors and even after chatting with one of those agencies again yesterday, but this is the first news story I’ve seen written up about it. For reasons that are, unsurprising for China, opaque, it’s suddenly become extremely difficult for foreigners to get and extend their Chinese visas. It’s been speculated that this is all part of a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment (the other side of the nationalist coin) that has swept the country since the Tibetan protests and especially since the protests of the torch rally. I think the cincher was probably the idiot who successfully grabbed the torch out of the hands of a wheelchair-bound athlete in Paris. The athlete herself was elevated to sainthood in the local press, explicitly identified as an angel. Meanwhile, the idiot, who I doubt represented any of the pro-Tibet protest groups, has come to symbolize not only the Tibet protesters, but even Westerners as such.

Bracing for Games, China Sets Rules That Complicate Life for Foreigners
Published: April 24, 2008

As the story mentions, it’s especially become problematic for the French, who are now being associated with the torch-grabbing idiot to the extent that they are having the most problems with visas now, and are about to have their Wal-Mart-like superstore chain Carrefour boycotted nationwide. Why a boycott? Officially, the people leading the boycott are citing a rumor (which they seem to assume is uncontroversially true) that one of Carrefour’s main investors has donated to the Dalai Lama. There doesn’t appear to be any truth to the rumor, but there it is. It strikes me that the real reason is to punish “the French” – largely because of the idiot, but also because of Sarkozy threatening to boycott the opening ceremony. Allison has speculated the culture is still deeply collectivistic, and that despite a few encouraging signs of individualism popping up here, that the collectivist-style of thinking is still dominant.

So what does this mean for me? Well, it means that I may actually be returning to the United States in the first half of May, instead of the end of July. I may have time to see the other things I wanted to see here, like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, but visiting Xinjiang (East Turkestan), Shanghai, the Wollongong Nature Reserve and of course Tibet will be out of the question. And now, I’ve got to replan my entire summer. Still, there is one plus – I’ll get to go Rand Camp after all. But as much as I’d like to go, my fiancee comes first, and I’d rather be here with her.


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