Visa Games

This week I’ve been busy gathering paperwork so I can (1) go all the way back to the U.S. to get my new work visa, and (2) graduate for real, like… for real. (And you thought passing the defense was enough? Nope, sorry… Not nearly enough red tape to make it final.)

I’m not too bitter about visa inconveniences brought on by the Olympics. It’ll be good to see my family and take a decent-length vacation from work (a vacation where I have no thesis to work on).

One of my American co-workers has been trying really hard to get to the Olympics this summer, but I can’t stay far enough away. With all the hype and over-the-top emotional build-up, I can’t imagine the Olympics in Beijing turning out better than a half-victory. Lots of things are bound to go wrong, but many will go right.

What I want to know is: after all this is over, what proportion of this country is going to scratch its collective head and wonder, what were we thinking?


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Hmm, didn’t got the last sentence… anybody to explain?

  2. Everyone I know in China this summer have been enjoying VISA issues. I’m surprised that nobody has used guanxi to get longer visas before coming to China.

  3. What proportion? none!
    At least not any good self-respecting patriotic citizens. only some radical elements might ask that question but I think we can safely ignore them as raving mad.

  4. I suppose further clarification is needed for that last comment. I didn’t need a visa extension, but all of my foreign friends did. So far, I have not heard of them having any problems being issued a new visa and they will soon be returning. I just found this phenomenon interesting but never meant to criticize. And I respect the measures that China is taking to ensure the safety of its foreign guests, I can only hope that foreign guests are equally respectful when they visit during the Olympics. Now that I look at that last comment, I can see how it can be read the wrong way, sorry about that.

  5. Post-Olympics is going to be the biggest case of post-partum depression in the history of mankind. Personally, I’m betting that they’ll have such a good time in August that they host another Olympics next year too, just to keep the fun and national pride going.

  6. My office is getting my new visa next week. Just a few extra hurdles here for renewals. Should go smoothly.

    As for Olympics, I’m heading out to Malaysia. Should be back for the last couple days of the games, which I’ll probably not watch.

  7. @Bendan, I like your analogy. Get ready for olympic highlights well into 2009.

  8. Great site John, I tell all the newbies coming to Shenzhen for our English Teaching/Study program to check it out before they get here.

    Going back to Florida? I have to go back to sort out visa issues too and will be in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando. If you are going to be in either of those cities and want to come out for a drink, please do! I’d really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you personally about your experiences here in China.

    If not, enjoy your little vacation in the states and good luck staying cool.

    Keep up the good work!


  9. Henning Says: July 5, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    John, Good luck with all that bureaucracy!
    I hope they let the Laowei back in after Olympia is over….

    Will there be anybody at CPod in the upcoming 2 months?
    Will the show go on?

  10. Maybe by the time the Olympics is over 90% of the country will finally realize that the purpose of the Olympics was not to “honor” China — anymore than the purpose of the last Olympics was to honor Greece. I doubt it, though. Most people will probably be too busy nursing their wounded pride at the various (imaginary) “insults to China” that took place during the games.

    The one thing about the Olympics I’m really looking forward to is the opening ceremony, though, because we all know that Zhang Yimou is going to out-craptacular even the worst of the new year’s craptaculars. 10,000 teenage girls waving ribbons in unison! Can’t wait.

    They should really wheel out Chairman Mao’s body into the center of the stadium..lone spotlight..and then he gets up and breakdances. If they do that, I’ll become a Chinese citizen tomorrow and join the PLA.

  11. Visa games
    看到“game”,想起来,在美国时,和一个朋友开了一两个小时的车去一个地方看她的绿卡办理情况,结果that lady told her : it’s a waiting game. 把我的朋友气得要命。

  12. about Beijing Olympics
    Imagin this: a guy got a big break finally which he waited , worked hard for decades, so he just wants to make it happen by all means, impressing the world , not dropping the ball.
    so ,谅解一下吧。

  13. @Green Dragon

    That guanxi card doesn’t work anymore these days. I used to know a guy in Shanghai who was using some kind of government connection to basically sell 6 month multi-entry business visas. All you had to do was pay 2030 kuai, and you’d get your visas no questions asked. You’d EMS him your passport and the money, and one week later, you’d have your visa in the mail, totally legit. I talked to him a few months ago, and he told me that even he can’t get any new visas until September.

  14. John-
    Just out of curiosity, does the fact that you are married to a Chinese make it any easier for you to obtain a visa? One would think that having a Chinese wife would be reason enough for you to remain in China, but you never know.

  15. Um, Bill, I thought the last Olympics was to honor Greece?

    Usually countries that small and w/o too much economic strength would not get the Summer Games, but because it was the birthplace of the Olympics it got it over other places. I honestly thought they weren’t going to have it ready (SNL skit anyone) in time but they pulled it off.

    The games were given to China this year because the IOC felt it was high time such a large country with comparable economic strength should get it.

  16. Um, Bill, I thought the last Olympics was to honor Greece?

    You seem to be confusing the IOC’s criteria for choosing a venue with the purpose of the Olympics. The IOC has a raft of political, practical, and economic criteria that they use when selecting a city. (Things like “number of $2000 per hour hookers” made available to the committee also factor in, I’m sure.)

    But whatever the IOC’s motivations are, the purpose of the Olympics is not to “honor” any specific country. Many in China seem to think that the purpose of the games is for the rest of the world to pay homage to China, as if the Olympics is just a stage and China gets to dance in the spotlight while the world applauds. If that is now the purpose of the Olympics, this will be the first time that has ever been the case. (Well, except the Salt Lake City games in 2002 — because the purpose of the Olympics that time was clearly to honor and celebrate the great achievements of America.)

  17. Right…the main purpose will never change and I doubt that the Chinese population really doesn’t know why the Olympics came about (fostering unity, etc, etc, one world one dream) but I think it’s legit to say that being given the Olympics to host does run parallel to a country’s economic state and it’s acension into the world.

    While it’s main purpose of promoting harmony and goodwill is of course the main purpose, allowed such an honor is symbolic of other things, 1950s China could not have gotten it, nor 1970s China, nor the India of today, or Vietnam of today, etc, . Just the major economic players. And thus, the meaning of this honor shouldn’t really be diminished just because it’s probably annoying as hell to hear all the crap about one world one dream, and the fuwas and every other nationalistic saccharine sentiment that must be drenching the Beijing environment.

    With that being said, I really don’t think being given the winter games are as big of a deal in the same sense, even when given to such a wonderful, majestic city as that of Salt Lake City.

  18. I’m glad that your trip worked out for you as a chance to see your family. But I still think it’s ridiculous that you have to fly back just to renew your visa. I hope that just a temporary during the Olympics…

    By the way, how long is a visa good for before you have to renew?

  19. Any connection flight through California? – Wilson

  20. “Many in China seem to think that the purpose of the games is for the rest of the world to pay homage to China”

    Isn’t that what barbarians are supposed to do to the Dragon Throne? Why else would China be awarded the Olympics?

  21. The best thing about the olympics, will be the closing ceremony, where the Chinese will have to give the flag to the British. There will be a big smile all around the world.

  22. Turtlewind Says: July 13, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Nobody seems to have replied to Ben Ross’s question yet, and it’s one of my favourite ranting subjects, so I’ll take it up. The answer is no, being married to a Chinese person is utterly useless in applying for a working visa. The only difference is that you can apply for a one-year L visa (instead of the usual 1-3 month L visas given to tourists), which doesn’t allow you to work, study, do business, or indeed anything useful except possibly stay at home and do the housework.

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