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Become a digital nomad in China

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The world’s second largest and most populous country, a strong economic power and a space of high skyscrapers and 5,000-year old traditions, China is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. Travellers come here for an incredible experience in culture, cuisine, diverse nature, and a variety of business opportunities.

Why China

China has been the talk of the world for several years primarily due to its stable economic growth and rapid tech development. This mix of great business potential and oriental enigma makes China a very interesting destination for the location-free.

With a relatively friendly visa policy, the country is easy to visit but needs a lot of time to be explored in full. Known as the world’s manufacturing hub, it’s a space of a lot of opportunities and great networking. However, there are a few things to watch out for — internet censorship and high air pollution in some areas.

Best cities to work from

Beijing is the obvious place to start when exploring China. But, when arriving in the city, note that the life in the capital is quite different from that of other areas in the country — and especially different from the country’s chaotic south. Beijing is an administrative centre, and though a very modern city, it is also the one with the most well-preserved cultural and political traditions. Digital nomads who prefer to explore warmer regions may find Beijing to be a challenge due to its cold winters. What’s more, with the recently rising levels of pollution, a large number of expats have been leaving the capital for greener regions with better air quality.

Shanghai is often called “the New York of Asia”. It’s China’s most international, cosmopolitan, and prosperous city, and a centre for all hip cultural events, key conferences, and exhibitions such as the 2010 World Expo. Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities to live and work from by Asian standards. In Shanghai, you will find everything you need to work remotely — from international coffee shop chains to world-class restaurants, and local tea shops.

Shenzhen is China’s youngest and most rapidly developing city. A small fishing village only 30 years ago, today, it has well earned its title of “Hardware Silicon Valley” with a large and always growing number of startups, makerspaces, coworking offices, and meet-ups. Shenzhen offers efficient networking as many international companies bring their manufacturing projects to the city. Working in Shenzhen is ultimately convenient with its many offices and coffee shops. Plus, the city is less than an hour away from Hong Kong, Asia’s financial and business hub.

If you are willing to hop off the metropolis track, China’s less international cities like Chengdu, Xi’an, Guilin, and Zhuhai will let you see more of the authentic China while offering a calmer laid- back pace of life and a lower cost of living.

The internet and coworking spaces

China is not the strongest location when it comes to the internet. The average broadband connection scores just 9.46Mbps across the country — but that’s just half the problem. With a strict censorship policy, certain websites and services (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Gmail, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) are blocked, which may significantly hinder your work efficiency.

Most big cities will offer you several options when it comes to coworking spots. However, you will notice a divide between international and locally-run offices. A large number of coworking spaces act as incubators and also offer marketing and fundraising assistance to young local project creators.

Coworking spaces in Beijing

Spaceyun, Xibeiwang Building 16, No. 10 East Road, Haidian District,

Coworking spaces in Shanghai

MIXPACE, Amyitis, 3/F, 566 Huaihai Zhong Lu

Agora Space, Xuan Yu Garden

Coworking spaces in Shenzhen

SimplyWork, 1 Kefa Road, 3F Fulizhen Building

SZTeam, Yuanxing technology building No.1 Sogping Rd. North district, High tech park (north), Nanshan

Leisure in China

China is an incredibly diverse country and there is an extensive choice of what to do, see, taste, and explore. From the classics like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Terracotta Army, West Lake, and Oriental Pearl Tower to the natural wonders of the Three Gorges, the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Avatar Mountains), and Chengdu Panda Reserve, you will never be strapped for things to do on the weekend.

What to know before arriving

Most travellers to China will need to apply for a visa in advance. You can do that at your local Chinese Embassy or Consulate (the application process is quite straightforward, especially for a tourist visa). A tourist visa is typically valid for up to three months and can be further extended. If you plan to stay in the country longer, you are advised to explore more long-term visa options such as the business visa.

 Important: Certain areas and cities in China (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area) suffer from high level of pollution. If you suffer from cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, it is recommended to avoid the polluted areas.

  Useful links:

China National Tourist Office

Map of free Wi-Fi hotspots in China

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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Member since 01 June 2008
Small earth, Mauritius
1 Comment
Yellowknife_Academy
Yellowknife_Academy
2 weeks ago

Hello There are a few gaps in this piece. 1) Getting any type of Visa in China requires some sort Invitation Letter from someone in China. A travel agent will be able to handle this, but you have to be abel to provide some sort of address and itinerary. 2) If you state that you are planning on staying for more than 2-3 weeks, you will need to report to the local police station or risk booted [probably won't happen]. However it is a huge hassle if it does happen. 3) The slower internet speeds are places with shared connections like coffee shops or "Mc Ds". A local/person internet connection is really quite fast. The Internet within China is one of the fastest. So I would suggest avoiding coffee shops at peak times, if you plan on doing work. 4) If you plan on doing any work via the typical Gmail, facebook...etc. All you need is a VPN. Some are better than most, some are waaaaay better. By all means do some research and open an account with 2-3 before coming to China. As for me, I have settled on a VPN company called Astrill https://astrillaff.com/a8f3a8c7586. After 3 years of living in China it has proven to be the most reliable. 4) If you want to experience authentic China, check out Tier II and Tier III cities.....or even smaller....I am in Zhaoyuan .....probably Tier 23.

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See also

Expatriates in China are allowed to set up different types of businesses in the country, however there may be variations in requirements by province.
Shenzhen is a city with a growing economy in Guangdong. It is popular not only for its job opportunities, but thanks to its proximity with Hong Kong.
Guangzhou has a number of special economic areas, as well as a free-trade zone that attract businesses. It also hosts the largest trade fair in China.
To be hired in China, you must have a good command of English and knowledge of Mandarin. You also need expertise which is not available locally.
The capital of Hubei, Wuhan is an ideal location for expats hoping to see the most of China, thanks to its excellent transportation links.

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