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Visa problems (part 2)

I’ve quoted before from the often-amusing weekly newsletter of the Access Asia people in Shanghai. They write with attitude, which leavens the sometimes dull market research topics that are their bread and butter.

And I will quote against, because this time the topic is of great consequence. That is, the continuing fallout of China’s crackdown on visas for foreigners.

This is beginning to pinch. Imagine what will happen if China loses a significant share of the toy trade to neighboring countries because foreign quality assurance managers couldn’t get into Chinese factories right now, in July, to assure delivery by October and sales by December.

I appeal to anyone with first-hand information about this to get in touch with me because I plan to write a news article if the facts warrant.

Here are excerpts from Access Asia’s take:

The China visa issue is now becoming more unpleasant than a stroll on a Qingdao beach (who said it wouldn't be a 'Green Olympics'?). We're not that bothered about the clear out of wannabe freelance hacks dodging tax, or the legion of Eurotrash and American trustafarians who've been slumming it in Shanghai and Beijing for years on dad's money…

The real adverse effects of the visa crackdown will be felt and suffered by Chinese people and businesses. Consider the following problems we've encountered in the last couple of weeks:

A number of brands manufacturing in China need to place Xmas orders. They have policies that independent factory inspections must occur to ensure working conditions, etc., as part of their CSR. They don't use local inspectors given the problems with those and formula box ticking scams. However, their inspectors cannot get a visa, and so cannot approve the factory and so the contract cannot be awarded. While Beijing may think the Olympics is worth all this, the fact is that the West cannot move Xmas to late February. Even if (and there are no guarantees) things return to normal in September, it will be too late for these firms who need to get gear on boats in October for the holidays. Now many are scrambling to find capacity in Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc., while any number of Chinese garment manufacturers (two thirds of whom operate on margins of less than 1.5% already) will go under.

A number of companies with production runs already underway are having to stall or delay work as they cannot get visas for their Quality Assurance (QA) staff to enter China. Few are willing to let 500,000 leather jackets be produced without getting someone to do some QA, so delays are occurring, meaning factories will get paid late or have orders cancelled. In Hong Kong last week, Access Asia was offered US$1,000 for every referral of a qualified, experienced China-based QA person we could find as desperation sets in.
A major fall out will be that people who have talked about moving production to other countries for some time are now actually having to do it to meet deadlines. Smart manufacturers in those countries are offering keen prices and will go all out to do a good job - they know this is their moment in the sun, and a chance to win serious business away from China. For many brands (once they have made the move, and if a good job is done) the inclination will be not to bother to go through the process of moving production back to China all over again. Whether China wins the Olympics or not, the long lasting fall out from these silly Games will be serious and terminal for a lot of business people as a significant percentage of business moves elsewhere and doesn't come back once the Olympics are over.

The fact is that many good manufacturers have survived and absorbed energy costs, rising transport costs, high input and commodity costs, soaring freight costs, rising wage bills and new labour laws (not to mention tough western companies looking for cheap, cheap prices). But they may not be able to survive the actions of the visa issuing department. Stupid and sad.


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I wonder why this site is not visible from inside China?


@Netizen - Can you actually give us an example of foreigners 'running amok' in China any time recently? As for not making orders if you can't do the QA work, that's just common sense. As for Chinese not complaining, the visa rules don't affect them directly - why would they complain?



Funny those Chinese good manners didn't apply when the Chinese students were beating up Korean protesters in Seoul during the Olympic run. At least I haven't heard of foreign mobs attacking Chinese in China.

Tom Spender

Hi Tim - could you forward me the Acces Asia weekly newsletter in question? I've been trying to look at their site (accessasia.co.uk?) but it is down for maintenance and thus has no content...

Thanks, Tom


"If you don't like the food you are being served. Don't eat it."

How about eat a token amount of it regardless to show respect to the host?


@IC. I have heard of "putting your head into sand". Have you had of "turning the other cheek"?

When you have a bunch of people who come into your country demanding this and that, how would you feel?

It's like you inviting someone in your home, and them complaining about the pictures you have on your wall or the way your grandmother talks. You're not gonna change that so instead you choose to "turn the other check" aka ignore and then you kick him out.

I don't see how that is avoiding a problem or coward away from a problem. If you don't perceive something as a problem, then what exactly are trying to avoid by "sticking your head in the sand"?

I don't know about peoples tendency's for sticking their head in the sand but I do know that some heads need to be pulled out of a few orifices and realize that when you're a "guest" you have to behave.

If you don't like the food you are being served. Don't eat it. Don't complain about it.



Have you heard `putting your head into sand'?

Pffefer is right. Capitalism is about money. For profit, people are willing to commit crime. Visa problem? lol.


haha, you think these foreign companies will ditch everything they had established in China, from factories to suppliers altogether simply because somebody couldn't go to China in the past month or two? If that happens, it is really "Stupid and sad."

"suffered by Chinese people"? ROFL.



It is about par for the course that virtually no major international event can be held anywhere without trouble makers traveling from afar to demonstrate, complain, or to generally cause a fuss.

Under such circumstances, there cannot be a rule that "you kick everyone out". It is the responsibility of the host to maintain order --- and that obligation sometimes come with it considerable and real costs.

China's problem has been that the tools it has available to maintain order and control / limit opportunities for disruption is rather limited compared to, say, the United States.

Simply put, China simply do not invest the hundreds of billions the US does in high tech means of people control, surveillance, media control, etc. Instead, what China has is a lot of inexpensive people employed in the same jobs who are often ill trained, ill educated, and ill equipped for the very delicate and politically sensitive tasks they are called to perform.

I for one, am sympathetic with the State Security folks (and I am saying this openly) for them being given a job with parameters so difficult that I would have thrown up my hands and said "no thanks". But they don't have a choice --- they have to do the job.

What results is security organization(s) that are doing their best under very trying circumstances, and when they have erred, it is clearly in excessive caution rather than insufficient caution.

Remember, if the Olympics is marred by any incident(s), many high ranking security officials are going to be fired. So have some sympathy.

I, for one, know that there are many western techniques that they are not deploying because they, a) don't have the knowhow, b) don't have the technology, c) don't have the cooperation of the countries that have such means, d) don't have the budget / staff / training, etc. to carry it out.

They are doing the best they can with the limited means they have. Let's hope it works.

Give them a break.... and lets hope they too... lighten up a bit.


Terrorism only works when you focus attention on them (the issues the people). I think the Neo-Conservatives in the United States cause more terror than the actual terrorist.

You are very right, AB, the best way to defend against these incidents is to not draw attention and deal with it.

As for the visas, I'd like to compare China's situation to a really awesome party. The party is going great but there are a few rowdy guest, but they are out of control. So as a good host, you ask them to quiet down but they continue to be rowdy, at which point, instead of singling out any one person you kick everyone out. This might effect your popularity amongst your group of friends.

Afterwards, you clean up, and perhaps maybe one day, have another party but set some ground rules as to who are on the VIP list...



You don't see a great outcry because the people affected (businesses trying to get orders) are too busy with their day job to participate, and even if they do, it is not going to do much good.

While I am generally sympathetic with the need to tighten security and to remove the riff raff of foreigners illegally in China, there are ways to deal with those problems without harming (or minimally affecting) businesses that, like it or not, work very hard to power the Chinese economic miracle that in turn, enable the government to live off their taxes.

A much more limited security regime that narrowly focuses on securing Beijing and the game venues would do the job much batter.

By a narrowly focused security regime, I mean a regime that would involve securing every entrance and approach to Beijing during the critical weeks, that means checking every car, train, truck, etc. as they enter the city. Very labor intensive, but doable.

As for the foreigners and expats, to clear out the riff raff is generally good, but the problem is to make exceptions where they may not be "legal" but are actually doing good --- there is a time honored way to do this in the Chinese system, which is to have a person with a trusted relationship make a personal appeal (aka guanxi) and have the rules "bent" for them. I do concur that there is a need to keep the foreigner community, especially the ones who are here legally during the games because some of them may just decide that is their free ticket out of China.

Remember, every 9/11 hijacker was in the US legally.

Having said all this, Net....

China must demonstrate a level of tolerance, willingness to put up with some slights, and other disruptions --- that is the essence of being a free country, which China is, in many ways.

Sometimes, the best way to defend against these incidents is to not draw any attention to it and let it be ignored.

That cannot be done for bona fide terrorists. That is where the attention must be focused.


The Access Asia article quoted is quite sensational. That's typical when foreigners run amok in your country and think they are indespensable.

Although I have concern about nontranspancy of change visa issuance, I think the change is very necessary, for the secuity of the Olympics, and for overall domestic secuity related terrorism and anti-Chinese activities.

I guess the Chinese government was very disappointed of the behaviors of the western media and expat community in China during the Olympics torch relay and Tibetan riots. Instead of helping bridge the understanding between China and other countries, the expats were useless and worse, were helping spread rumours and stereotypes.

Chinese leaders used to say, come to visit China and you'll understand our situation and how far we have come. Now they recognized it may not an effective strategy because the expats here didn't help a bit. More than that, some expat web sites such as Danwei, Shanghaiist, Peking Duck, have a large anti-Chinese following and commenters, spitting anti-China, anti-Chinese rants every day to make these blogs going.

No wonderful the Chinese change tact. Expats need go home or become native. The change of visa policy helps them do make the choice. You don't see a great cry againt this in the Chinese only forums. It means this is a popular policy change.



Is there anyway you can do a summary of the problems being caused by the visa situation to many Chinese businesses, many of whom are small to medium sized businesses with little political clout, and have it reach the right eyes and ears in the imperial capital?

For example, how about writing a dai zi bao and have an airplane tow the banner over Beijing when the top leaders are outside?

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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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