US Department Of State Issues Travel Advisory For China

Filed Under: Travel

Personally I’m not someone who puts much weight on travel advisories from the US Department of State. Or at least I don’t take them as seriously as many, who think you absolutely shouldn’t travel to a place that has any sort of an advisory (which means you can’t travel to many places).

While the US issues advisories for all kinds of countries, they just released a new warning today, which some might find to be surprising.

The US Department of State has just issued a new Level 2 advisory, warning citizens to exercise increased caution in China “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.” The concern is that China will detain US citizens without cause using exit bans.

Per the government warning:

Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. China uses exit bans coercively:

  • to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,
  • to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and
  • to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.

U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.” Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

China does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and China may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services.

There are a total of 58 countries and regions with Level 2 advisories, including places like Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, and Guatemala.

So personally this wouldn’t impact whether or not I’d choose to travel to China, but it is interesting…

What do you make of this US Department of State China travel advisory?

  1. A good reason to continue by lack of desire to see the tall buildings in Shanghai
    This and the air pollution

  2. I received travel advisories on both Macau and Vietnam last week from STEP state dept
    Both those countries have always been safe. Maybe state dept on a binge

  3. So the reason for the advisory is that they have a list of people that aren’t allowed to get on an airplane, there is no legal mechanism of appeal, and the government uses it arbitrarily.

    In concert with these bans, the government can detain you and hold you without trial indefinitely, use enhanced interrogation techniques, and deny you counsel, on the basis of your activities abroad or online.

    My goodness that sounds familiar.

    So the State Department advisory against travel to the United States is coming when? As I recall they have a little list as well…

  4. I’ve never had any desire to go to PRC, so this doesn’t matter to me either way. But I’ve been watching a YouTube channel (ADVChina) recently done by a couple of Western expats (one American, one South African) who’ve been living in China for several years and have Chinese wives/families. And they’ve basically decided that things have gotten too bad in China for them to stay. Obviously living there and going there for a visit are entirely different things, but they’ve really soured on the country and what they see as a real hostility to Westerners that was not present before.

  5. “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws”

    That’s been consistent throughout the 70 years of the “People’s” Republic of China.

    Especially if you’re Uighur, Mongol, Manchu, Tibetan or Hui

  6. I think it maybe related to Canada’s holding Huawei’s CFO at the US’s request & in turn China arresting 3 Canadians as a result. So the US is guessing China maybe going after US nationals next?

  7. Let’s be honest, the US should be on the highest risk level of any country’s travel advisory due to a long list of things (e.g. high crime rates, gun violence, dangerously outdated infrastructure etc.).

  8. “People’s” Republic of China and Russia are COMMUNIST nations ! When will people understand that?
    When Russia overtook Crimea, the West should have overtaken Kaliningrad.
    Has any Communist country ever done any goodwill toward another nation or people and not expected anything back in return?

  9. @John valid point. @AGB comparing this practice by the Chinese to the US holding terrorist is questionable at best. China does have a practice of targeting US Citizens of Chinese descent (especially ones with family in China). @Lucky in this case the State Department is posting this because there have been recent incidents in which this has happened. It’s just a warning. I wouldn’t put much stock into it because you are not the target audience.

  10. @Charles S, anything is questionable when one questions it. What I was getting at in my aside is the fact that both governments have opened a loophole in law, and exploit it to deny due process.

    That kind of behavior is equal opportunity–it can be used to detain terrorists, and it can be used to detain political enemies. There is no check on government power in these circumstances; there are no due process guarantees when due process can be circumvented. This is not comparison, this is fact.

    Here is a comparison: since 9/11, we have seen administrative power systematically erode the guarantees of many liberties once protected by law. It started with the indefinite detention of American citizens as terrorists. Then we got the no fly list; a few years later, it was the FISA Amendments Act. The trend line is clear–abuses of power are expanded, then normalized, then expanded again.

    China is several decades into the same cycle. We look at the abuses of the Chinese government and we are rightly horrified. Of course, abuse never starts that way.To look at China’s reviled behavior, and not transfer that outrage to protect our own system of government, is of questionable wisdom.

    See–I’ve questioned it.

  11. Well, I’m leaving for a 25 day trip to China and Tibet in March, and this isn’t going to stop me.

  12. I fly to China next week. If I’m detained, well, it was nice knowing you all.

    (Seriously, I feel like the odds of this happening are about the same as finding a First class Swiss award 330 days in advance).

  13. @AGB your Michael Moore understanding of US law is laughable at best. That is not questionable. The Supreme Court has upheld the detentions at Gitmo. You can disagree all you want but the reality is the legal system in China is much harsher. The US doesn’t bill the family for the bullet that is used in the execution. The US does not detain its own citizens without regard for due process. If you don’t understand that I can’t help you. I am not saying the system doesn’t make mistakes (of course it does). But the US legal system is far more fair than the Chinese system (sorry it is). You always have the right to be judged by a jury of your peers. You are comparing the Chinese legal systems constant persecution of political opponents to the US detaining terrorist (who were caught in the act). I am sorry but comparing the two as equals is ludicrous.

  14. ok, I am issuing my own ‘travel advisory’ here regarding China.

    Be sure to haggle until you’re blue in the face at every street market you encounter should you decide to buy something. They’ve got special prices just for you, obvious tourist, and will call their friends to have a laugh if you simply pay the number they invent when you ask the price.

    So haggle, argue, wave your arms, but keep your cool. Be prepared to pay cash, and be prepared to walk away. Plus, don’t let that sweet old lady in the shop fool you: her BMW is parked around back.

    I think mine is a far more useful advisory, and it took zero dollars of your taxes to produce it.

  15. @Lorrie
    There never been ANY communist country EVER in history. I understand you have been told that by media or school bit truth is there was a Communist ideology which never transformed into reality. Russia amad others were Socialist countries. And Chima now is more capitalist then US which at some point acting like a socialist country eg. Section 8 housing foodstamps etc.

  16. Many corrupt Chinese fled to the US with the millions they steal by bribery. The US donors this by giving them a green card or a passport. But they are still criminals in China.

  17. Many corrupt Chinese fled to the US with the millions they steal by bribery. The US honours this by giving them a green card or a passport. But they are still criminals in China.

  18. The concern is that China will detain US citizens without cause using exit bans.

    Guess who started it first? Hint: not Canada 🙂

  19. @Inshanghai that is actually the most accurate and honest thing on here. Not just the US but check out Vancouver. Thats really what this warning is about. We welcome them because of the money they bring and the investments that make. But I could see how in China they would be detained.

  20. Well, as a Chinese national with US residency, I just got detained and interrogated for almost two hours yesterday at the US custom because they saw the Russian/Iranian/Ugandan visa and the Cuban/Bahrainian stamps on my passport. Around 30+ people who came off the same flight from Shanghai went through the additional checks. It’s the first time I saw the seats at the additional custom check area had been all occupied and some passengers had to stand and wait (Yup, I’ve flown into the US from MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and Mexico, arriving at SFO, LAX, ORD, and some other custom borders during the peak hours, and I’ve never seen such a scene—one for one flight this time).

    On the other side, talking about US where the gun kills, homicide and violent crimes, and traffic tolls are among the highest of the world, marijuana legal in several states and drugs rampant, I am surprised that no country has issued a single warning about traveling to the US.

  21. @Z, several countries do have travel warnings regarding travel to the US, primarily due to gun violence. Most of the countries on the level 2 list have similar warnings in regard to the US. These things often are tit for tat.

  22. For high level executive, NGO worker I think the threat is real. Tim Cook dismissed but tbh I won’t come to China for a few months before dust settle.
    Charlie S. has the point – US system has a lot of issues and we all know the no-fly-list horror. But it compares to nothing about how Chinese people/visitors subject to exit ban.

  23. Note that the warnings do not apply to the Republic of China on Taiwan. They only apply to the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.

  24. @Z Well, you have to admit your travel history is a bit unusual for someone who lives in the US… Even as a citizen, my extensive travel raises questions (the fact that most of the stamps on my passport are from China probably doesn’t help…).

  25. • You need to determine the audience of such a message and why such a message has been broadcasted
    • European countries such as the UK and France have such high warnings
    • This may be referring to the fact that China has been implementing laws differently locally down to the city and/or district level, but this is nothing new
    • It could also be referring to China increasingly stopping people from attempting to leave if they broke the law in China and to punish them, and this is also is nothing new
    • Comparing this to other countries there has been greater enforcement of laws around the world even in the US. For example, if you are a citizen or permanent resident and owe back taxes or you have not filed your returns then the government is starting to enforce deactivating passports or not issuing renewals
    • Dual nationals are not legally recognized by the Chinese Government, depends partly on the nationality of the parents and where they are born as to what applies

  26. @Becky “(Seriously, I feel like the odds of this happening are about the same as finding a First class Swiss award 330 days in advance).” – For you maybe. For a dual national the risk is very real. Also keep in mind it was just reported today for the first time that the Chinese have detained 13 canadian citizens in retaliation for the recent arrest of the Chinese business person. The risk is definitely real and I bet all 13 of those canadians thought there was no risk until it happened to them. Will they detain everyone? No, but some people are at higher risk than others and a state department warning is certainly appropriate to alert people given the disclosures that came out today.

  27. Please… people comparing this to America detaining terrorists, is ridiculous. America gives you right to counsel. You are always aware of the circumstances, and why you are being detained.

    The chinese government can do whatever the hell it wants, to anyone, for any reason, at any time, you have zero recourse and good luck with that situation. This includes local chinese authorities too. If a chinese immigration officer wants to shake you down and detain you what are you gonna do about it?

    This won’t cause me to change any of my travel plans to China, but don’t compare this to the US because it’s not in the same league at all.

  28. I worked in Hong Kong since 1976 and since then , the China attitude has been that if you are of Chinese blood , no matter that you have a US or UK or French or Malaysian or any other countries are first and foremost CHINESE and therefore subject to the laws of China .
    This is unacceptable to most foreigners , but China makes its own laws and does what it wants ignoring international opinion . Like many of my Hong Kong Chinese friends say ” never trust a communist ”.
    This has become a big issue in the last month due to Ms Meng of Hua Wei having been detained in Vancouver as the result of a US arrest warrant .
    The Chinese government says that Hua Wei is a private company , it is very much a government supported company and this is why the arrests of US and Canadian citizens have taken place . My suggestion, if you have Asian or Chinese features and a US or Canadian passport , stay out of China now.

  29. I find funny that some commentators response is to invalidate the travel warning because they have issues with US, be it sentimental, nationalist, political, etc… You should ignore it if you think the warning has no basis in truth, not because of your feelings. Yes gun violence in US is high, so should US not issue a travel warning to Brazil or Iraq, or other dangerous areas in the world? That makes no sense.

  30. @Abe , just let you know that many of the legal rights applied to US citizen doesn’t apply to non-citizen in US either. There are many cases immigrates being detained for extended period of time without proper cause. I could be trow in a jail without trial indefinitely.

    for you china haters or people only know china through mass media, it is easy to perceive china as no law at all, “The Chinese government can do whatever the hell it wants, to anyone, for any reason, at any time” as you said.

    In reality, China has a legal system too and as it might not as robust as US’s, as I mentioned above, both country make loophole so they can do whatever they want in critical area. China’s legal system is probably much more reliable than most developing country than you thought.

    Again, you look at those cases that someone got detained by China recently, there is a reason. Most of you wouldn’t be even close to got that kind of attention.

  31. I’m not a Chinese National, nor do I look like one. I am, however, flying into Shanghai in 2 days for a 2 day stopover. Coming in on a redemption ticket and leaving on a paid ticket back to the US. I have a 10
    Year visa. People in my life are frantically telling me to not go but I tend to agree with Lucky. Am I wrong?

  32. @I love hilton – if you aren’t Asian it should be fine, they seem to mostly be targeting Asian Americans.

  33. The US issues travel warnings far too frequently for them to be credible. For example, France, Germany, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain all have level 2 warnings in place as well, despite those places all being statistically safer than the US.

  34. @Z “On the other side, talking about US where the gun kills, homicide and violent crimes, and traffic tolls are among the highest of the world, marijuana legal in several states and drugs rampant, I am surprised that no country has issued a single warning about traveling to the US.”

    Very valid points. Everything is about PR.

  35. @Z you make many valid points. We all understand (to varying degrees) that larger forces are at play on both sides of the Pacific, and it’s affecting individuals to an even greater degree than in the past. No bueno.

    I completely believe you that secondary immigration rooms at US boarders are getting fuller with travelers from China as a consequence of increased political tensions spiking due to Canada’s holding of Huawei’s CFO at the US’s request. Which whether you believe it or not (I certainly have no proof one way or the other) The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the US Justice Department was investigating whether Huawei violated US sanctions on Iran. Maybe having an Iranian visa in your passport flagged the immigration inspector, if that is the current intelligence being tossed around in Washington?

    Many people are now going to be suffering border anxiety at the very least, and in extreme cases – something much worse. Citizens of China and the US have become Government pawns, but let’s not forget Canada, probably the biggest pawn of all.

    Here’s what worries me most. I am completely horrified and angry at the reckless behavior of our President, with regard to the lack of both domestic and foreign policies. I realize our Government has committed many questionable practices and foreign interventions in the last 100 years. China also has a few skeletons in her closet, I’m pretty sure. Right now, America is getting close to a very minor Civil War. Until our domestic standoff/government shutdown/red vs. blue divides simmer down and stop tearing us apart (as our President seems to encourage!), the US will not properly address foreign policy issues. Left untended, it’s not hard to envisage how disaster might ensue. Given the lack of coherent messaging in foreign policy by Twitter, and the US more inward looking than ever, coinciding at the same moment in time when just the opposite needs to be happening – that scares me. We need China, and China needs us (for the moment anyway). Our countries are natural competitors and natural allies. Managing this increasingly complex relationship sensibly is more important now than maybe ever.

  36. @Inshanghai

    Sadly history probably backs you up. I am obviously hoping that the American Republic will outlast and recover from a 1-term Trump Presidency. A 2-term Trump Presidency, that might just bring the whole house down…walking away… 😉

  37. @zitella Long Story Short, if you are not a Chinese Citizen holding a foreign passport which is against the law, if you are not Canadian citizen, and you have never committed a crime in China which could result in an exit ban, then you will be totally fine. No Americans have been been detained in China recently, or if they have it’s been kept pretty quiet.

    I would say that those most in danger of facing an exit ban restriction would be for Chinese Citizens with ties to Canada/USA who flaunted China’s foreign dual citizenship requirements, Canadian Citizens who may or may not have been involved in dodgy activities, or either group who gets charged with a criminal offense.

    When the US presented Canada with an arrest warrant for a female CFO of Huawei, a Chinese company with close ties to communist party elites (or so it is rumored), China made their displeasure very quickly known. The reason for the arrest is not fully clear but there have been rumors that Huawei broke the terms of Iranian Trade Sanctions and the company was being investigated by the DOJ. China took out it’s fury on Canada and detained 13 Canadians in the days that followed Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Vancouver. Approximately 8 Canadians have been released from prison.

    With Donald Trump wrapped up in domestic issues that don’t require explanation, the US has remained silent. A US Trade Delegation is due to meet this week with Chinese counterparts to start looking for face saving solutions to the trade dispute. The timing of Meng Wanzhou’s arrest is suspicious and probably just another power play between China and the US. The fact that the US presented an Arrest Warrant to Canada to detain Ms. Wanzhou while she was connecting flights in Vancouver, and ultimately seeking her extradition to the US, Canada was in a no-win a situation as it’s Citizens soon found out.

    Ideally, if a trade breakthrough can be tentatively agreed to and ultimately signed, I would imagine Canada will get back it citizens, China will get back Huawei’s CFO, and the US and China will both claim success at having gone to the brink and ended the Trade War. If things go badly and the US Trade Delegation cannot make any progress, then we could see more fireworks. Donald Trump needs some sort of political victory fast, and the Government Shutdown in the USA is not, as far as I can see, providing him with that win.

    After all that, I don’t even know your nationality!?


  38. Every country has a travel advisory from level 1 (Australia) to 4 (Syria) as of January 2018. They are updated annually at a minimum, or more often as events dictate. The update for China is only slightly different than the prior version. It was always a Level 2.

  39. China is very very safe for tourists. If you are in any way detained, then you know you have done pretty bad things. Going through Chinese customs is generally simple and smooth. You literally have zero worry of gun violence and violent crimes while staying in China. And I have to disagree with the statement that China is a communist country. It has since 1970s been a capitalist country with a single party rule. Western governments spread propaganda against China by labeling it as communist and evil. But to be honest, except some border disputes and territorial claims, China has been a force of stability on the world stage and has not been sanctioning, bombing, invading, and nation-building other countries like the US has. Now who is really the evil communist after all?

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