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Entertainment, Media and Television for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

China has many entertainment options thanks to its vibrant culture, areas of unspoiled mountain regions, national parks and modern entertainment centres. There are many activities available, making it one of the most diverse and vibrant countries in the world. Essentially, there is always something fun to do.


China does have an active nightlife, despite the western view of a closed, communist society. China’s nightlife has a distinct personality with activities ranging from acrobatic shows, karaoke, gaming, disco dancing to even a Chinese opera dinner show. If you fancy a western style bar or pub, this is becoming an increasingly popular option especially within the more affluent urban centres such as Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen.


China has many cinemas across the major cities which show recent international movies. Most films are shown in their original language with Chinese subtitles, and in some cases English subtitles as well, but children movies are often dubbed over in Chinese. If you want to watch an English-language movie, the best location would be Shanghai, but only about 30 films are allowed to be imported each year, so choice is very limited. You can book films online at many of the larger cinemas.

Sightseeing and Tours

China offers numerous day tours and has many sightseeing attractions including: exploring the wonder of the nearly 3,000 mile-long Great Wall ; visiting the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, the Forbidden City in Beijing; visiting a temple or taking a cruise down the Yangtze River.

For a comprehensive list of entertaining activities available to you, including starting costs, pictures and a general overview, many guides are available, including:

China Hotels and Travel Guide - https://www.china-hotels.ws/
Viator Guide - https://www.viator.com/China/d13-ttd
Travel China Guide - https://www.travelchinaguide.com/


Media and Television

Television in China is owned and operated by Chinese Central Television (CCTV) and is firmly under state administration. It broadcasts 22 free-to-air channels, most of which are high definition (HD) and in Mandarin only. These channels broadcast a wide range of programmes, including news, sports, entertainment and more. The main two English channels are: CCTV News which is a 24 hour English language channel which broadcasts live news by the hour, and CCTV-9 Documentary which provides factual programming in English or Mandarin (with English subtitles). Currently, there are efforts to expand English-language TV service in China. Be aware that 'news' programmes in China are often censored and bowlderised to the point of being parodic.

If you prefer your home channels, cable TV and satellite TV are viable options, especially with urban areas which comes at a cost. OCN (https://www.ocn.net.cn/) is one often regarded as one of the biggest cable providers and offers a wide variety of international channels. For satellite TV, HBOCN (https://www.hbocn.com/) may prove to be a viable option as they specialize in providing international TV for expats throughout various cities in China. They cover most major channels across several languages including English, French, Russian and Japanese. Another credible provider is Dream TV (https://www.dreamtvchina.com/). Channels provided by satellite TV providers and the relevant costs can be obtained from their websites. Before you purchase subscription for these channels through a particular company, you should ask about their terms of service as some companies will assume zero responsibilities for service problems.

You should note that TV sets in China operate under the PAL signal type system. If you are carrying your television, ensure it compatible with this system (though many newer systems are multi-standards); if not, it will not operate normally with other equipment in China.

Additionally, many international newspapers are made available at newspaper stands and newsagents throughout the country. The only national English newspaper in China is the China Daily, which has a daily circulation of over 200,000 copies. Other English newspapers include South China Morning Post, Shenzhen Today and Shanghai Star. In addition to these, many international newspapers have developed websites which provide, on a daily basis, the same content present in the newspapers.

China boasts many radio stations, among which CRI (China Radio National) is the only one which broadcasts in 43 languages. CRI broadcasts many programmes of varying subjects such as politics, culture, science and news, among others. Its website, CRI Online, also serves as a good platform to access information. International programs such as BBC World Service and Voice of America are also made available. Many radio stations have official websites with live streaming; hence through this option your home stations may be available to you.



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If you are considering moving to China or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Chinese section including; details of immigration and visas, Chinese forums, Chinese event listings and service providers in China.


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