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Useful Advice for Tourists Visiting China
Using TV's and Computers

This page contains general information for Tourists, and should be read in conjunction with larger topics that have separate and dedicated pages of their own

Topics on this page include:


Chinese Television

Television sets
These come in three basic styles: small sets of around 22 inches, standard sets of about 31 inches, and latest technology LCD and Plasma screens. Expect to pay Y1500, Y2500, and Y6000 plus respectively - and according to specifications and size etc

Virtually all sets will have stereo speakers and rear connections for several dozen linked pieces of equipment. All the well known Western brands have a large presence in China, but also consider the locally made Skyworth, TCL and National Brands, which offer excellent quality at more reasonable prices

Only better sets will have multi-language capabilities, and these will offer a minimum of Chinese and English. We recommend these for foreigners in particular, and when the shop delivers, please ask the installation guy to put it into English language for you - just say 'English' and he will understand what you mean

There is usually some basic form of terrestrial signal you can get via aerial, but these tend to be of poor quality, half a dozen channels only, and with unreliable signals.

Cable. Nearly everybody uses cable, which are additional set top boxes just as in the West. Local hire for the box and remote is around Y600 one-off payment. You will also pay your building management around Y17 per month for the service provision, and this is included in your monthly building charges

There are normally about 150 channels, of which between 3 and 6 will be in English. You should receive at least 100 of these as standard. Some channels are premium rate and added additionally as separates, or in a pack. ESPN Sports from Hong Kong is usually one of these

However, before you go spending money, check out the suppliers menu contained within the set, as there will be 10 or so service supply companies in your bundle. One of these is an audio only music channel; but the others offer different combinations of TV channels, and often mix up the channel numbers also. The English channels are usually any three from: 14, 15, 24, 37

Satellite is also available in a lot of areas, but it can also be illegal depending on your exact situation. We are not sure just how this works, but think it has to do with the receiving dishes being disallowed on some buildings, rather than an issue with satellite reception itself - so get some help when enquiring. Satellite does have package systems as in the West, and can offer over 30 English language channels including: ATV and TVB from Hong Kong, English channels from local Chinese companies such as Guangzhou TV and TVS. Then there are the foreign imports such as BBC and ITV from UK, plus Sky channels, and network channels from USA etc. There are also hundreds of Chinese channels, and also some other foreign language channels available. Installation can be expensive at around Y3, 000; but monthly charge for the English Language pack is about Y30 per month ($4), which is excellent value!

Modern digital boxes are available for both Satellite and Cable systems, offering the latest in hard drive recording facilities and many other useful tricks. You will need help from a Chinese person who also actually understands what you are talking about in order to find out how to get these options. Just know they are available in China ... somehow?


Computers are very popular and common in China and even small towns will usually have one or two internet cafes. Big cities have numerous cyber-cafes which are often marked by either the QQ motif (A couple of black, white and yellow cute birds) or the chinese character that is a square with two 'x's inside it. The right side of the square may be open. You will only see this character at internet outlets, which are usually reached via a flight of steps from street level. Whilst the entrance may look like any of the other holes in a wall, saying "QQ" will probably be all you need to ask directions and confirm location.

Internet cafes are usually cheap at a few RMB per hour, but can vary considerably regarding equipment. Some may be running old pc's with Windows 98, whilst the vast majority will be new models running Windows XP service pack 1. You will probably need permission to use memory sticks and other media, which will be virus scanned before you can proceed. Otherwise you will probably be there to catch up with your email. Most Chinese will either be there for the same reason, or to play online games.

If you are buying a computer in China, then consider what you need and how much you want to pay. Both laptops and desktop versions are plentiful, and tend to be about 12 months behind the latest Western specifications. Legitimate second-hand computers are about half the price of the equivalent new one, and are actually made by small retailers from new parts which they assemble for you. Do not buy laptops on the streets - these are stolen machines and may pose viral threats and have other nasty things included + you will never see the seller again

Buy your computer from a good shop in a town, or go to your cities 'Computer City'. Foshan has one above the main bus station, where they sell everything you can imagine. Next door is a slightly occluded building which sells the 'Second Hand' versions.

If you are not a computer buff, then stick with the main retail outlets and go for 'Lenovo' brand. Chinese 'Asus' Motherboards are fine and of high standard also. A computer of good standard and functions will cost about Y4, 000 including screen, mouse, keyboard, Windows XP, and everything you need to make it work. Second hand are about half this price, but specifications do vary considerably - so you need to know what you are doing. Expensive models are obviously generally better - but may be designed specifically as games machines and pretty useless for office functions. For the technical's, your typical Y4K machine will come with: 1Mb Ram, 120 Gigabyte Hard disc, DVD reader and CD writer combo, Windows XP SP1, Office 2003, plus many USB ports and expansion slots. Laptops will have similar specs and prices.

Normally there are no problems re build quality, manufacturing faults, etc. You will also have a guarantee that is effective. Problems tend to arise because of confusion and language

It is worth specifying that your version of XP is Service Pack 2 or higher, as this has full compatibility with many software components like downloaded anti-virus programs, messenger and chat applications, etc. Ensure you have the English Language version of your operating system installed - otherwise you will be left with a computer that defaults to Chinese Language irritatingly often (This is a technical comment, not a simple user issue which is fine). This means installing programs in other languages can be virtually impossible, or at best is accomplished in Chinese

We suggest you install the English operating system version, and then change it to Chinese language. This will work fine most of the time, but when installing some applications you may need to change the computer language back to English to avoid installing something in Chinese. The opposite is also true, and some English language programs have to be installed with the computer set to Chinese Language, as otherwise the package cannot be read - AutoCad and CorelDraw are good examples of this

Normal people will not encounter any of these problems, but computer geek's will

Windows Vista and Office 2007 are available in China, but nobody is using them. Office 2007 is actually being uninstalled and upgraded to Office 2003

Mac and Linux are commonly available also. Geek's will know all about Linux; whilst if you are a normal person buying a Mac, then go for the Mac 10 operating system - it is very compatible with virtually everything (One way or another)

Peripherals and storage
As you would expect, most common add-ons are available everywhere. Things like webcam's and headsets cost around Y100, as do 1Gb memory sticks and 100 writeable blank CD's of DVD's. Printer / Copier / Scanner machines are freely available and to very high specifications. Some also incorporate fax for a price. Chinese tend not to do desktop speakers as we know them, and instead use dedicated sound systems with base speaker and control box + two satellite speakers. At around Y300 for a good one these are excellent, but bulky

Other add-ons are available, such as Zip drives and Sound or Graphics cards. Normally Chinese computers come with basic onboard sound - which means they do not have a sound recorder - which in turn means they cannot do speak programs like Skype. Be careful here!

Keyboards will be in English, but usually have the @ and " keys reversed. Most Mouse are two button and wheel. More complex versions are available for Y200 or less

We will finish this introduction here, but please contact us if you need more specific help
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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