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Communications--being in touch-- is extremely important, especially for the business traveller. Before you leave for travel to Asia or any other country, be sure you know how to communicate back home to both family and business and assure that they know how to contact you should the need arise. Business has the added dimension because you will most likely want to link up electronically to your office back home. But China is on the other side of the planet and after all, they area third world country. How will you communicate?

The good new is the infrastructure exists, and is good enough in China(cost issues aside), to allow you to communicate in almost using just about any mode that you are accustomed to....wherever you are.

Telephone:-- connections to the U.S.(or other countries)

There are an estimated 20 million telephones in China. This equates to less than one phone for every 60 people. However, unless you are travelling to a more remote part of the country, access to telephones is not a problem. You will not see a proliferation of phone booths on the street, although they can be found. Then again, you will likely not have a need for them anyway. There may also be a more limited number of outside lines from your company's office or factory. But access is readily available.

One thing you will notice is a proliferation of cell phones. China's infrastructure does not have anywhere near the "wiring" that phone systems in other countries have. The professional business world has moved right to the use of cell phones. Some feel it is a little bit of a status symbol. To provide copper or optical cable to all areas of a city would prove an enormous task.

The most important thing you will need to know is how to call out. Your hotel can give you the international dialing sequence for your country. Operators will assist in connecting you if required.

The further you go away from the large cities(Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong) the more difficult it may be for you to communicate with the operator in the hotel. It is extremely frustrating to try to call home at a promised day and time only to communicating with an operator who doesn't know enough English to help.

TIP: Find and record the complete international dialing codes for your home country prior to travelling.

The country code for China, dialing in, is: 86

The international code, dialing out, is: 00

Telephone credit cards pose another challenge as you need to know the phone numbers in country for this as well. The easiest way to accomplish this is by calling the 800# for your telephone credit card company before you leave. Ask for the correct number sequence, including the country number, for dialing to and from. You can always call your credit card company from China, but it will not be on a toll free number.

Internet connections:

Check with your internet service provider to see if there is a local number to use to gain access from China. You will find a connect charge per minute for the overseas connection. Internet service is growing at a rapid pace internally for residents and Expats in Asia, but travellers are not likely to join unless they visit a particular country repeatedly and often enough to take advantage of the service.

The PRC has made efforts at controlling the content of the Internet in China. The focus of these efforts is on pornography, articles and statements against the government and security of government information. These efforts have had little success with wide belief that information can not be controlled on the net. Regardless of the ability to control information, this is a non-issue to the vast majority of internet users who do not engage in the areas of concern.

Service Providers:
Similar to the rest of the world, internet use in the PRC is growing at an extremely rapid pace. Access can be obtained in virtually any major city. Chinese and English language abounds. The problems are similar to those elsewhere: slow speed, access problems and to some degree cost. Rapid internet growth is a major contributor to these problems. There are four major internet service providers in the PRC should you locate there for an extended stay.

Email: and individual Company systems connections:

Laptops are the right arm of business travellers. Linking to your home systems and Email can be invaluable to the success of your trip or to work out a problem back at the office.

The good news is this is very, very doable. The bad news is that it may be rather expensive.

Contact your company's' systems organization prior to your departure to determine if software has been installed in your computer to link into your company's Email and other systems once you have arrived. Make sure to receive the instructions for signon and access from your system support department for the software. Try it from home before you go to assure you know how to use it and that it was properly installed. For most international companies, this is readily available. Importantly, record the international hotline number for your systems support department.

You will still incur a phone charge for the connect time. From Asia, this will be very, very expensive. If you are linking up from your hotel. you will incur a mark-up. If your company has a business office or factory, make use of their phone lines whenever possible. If those offices have a leased line, you will not be incurring any additional expense.

Facsimile Machines:

Faxing documents is a quick and easy process anywhere in the world. China is no exception.

You can hook up via your computer's fax modem if you know the correct dialing sequence.

Most hotels will provide this service for you. Some of the best hotels and suites may have in-room fax machines. The hotels may advertise "in room" fax machines. Usage is not free. Check on the rates before using it.

Once you have set up your business, fax machines will be among your first office acquisitions.

TIP: Fax machines will get heavy traffic. Messages sent to/from the U.S. and China will be received during- non-business hours. Set up a procedure where the very last thing one of your staff in the PRC does is to check and stock the fax machine. This will avoid running out of paper and an overload of messages which may result in a loss of information.

Satellite Dishes:

Hong Kong Coastline

Satellite dishes are all over the major cities.

It is amazing the number you will see, even on some of the most unlikely of buildings.....

These satellite dishes provide both communications as well as access to national and international television broadcasting.


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