EngagingChina was supposed to be in Shanghai this
week. But Chinese bureaucracy threw up so many obstacles that I
reluctantly had to throw in the towel and stay home in Spain.
No doubt readers in the west have similar tales, but it nevertheless
is astonishing that a country that has ambitions to be a world power
cannot streamline the visa application process for business visits and
drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century — by using the
internet, for example.
Old hands tell me I should simply have applied for a tourist visa,
which has fewer strings attached. But I was due to be attending a press
event in China and the US company sponsoring the trip insisted on doing
things by the book, which meant applying for a journalist visa, from
the Chinese embassy in London.
As is well known, China has an ingrained suspicion of foreign
journalists and six different pieces of paper are needed to get a
journalist visa. The bits of paper were duly assembled, physically
presented, rejected, re-presented, scrutinised and, finally, approved.
But the embassy then closed for the May week holiday. Chinese embassies
around the world respect Chinese national holidays and also those of
the host country. For good measure, on the days they do open, they only
issue visas in the mornings.
To cut a long story short, the visa arrived too late to be of any use.
Of course, China is not the only country that can make it difficult for businesspeople to enter.
As a frequent “alien” visitor to the United States, I know from
experience that the entry procedures for foreign visitors verge on the
paranoid at times.
But the time wasted trying to get my Chinese visa and the dashed
expectations make for a deeply frustrating experience, nevertheless.
They also explain why EngagingChina hasn't been updated much during the past week. A situation that will be corrected forthwith.