Banking in China (1 letter off from baking, and much less pleasant)

Being a Canadian abroad fully intending on returning to Canada in the future (read: planning to pay taxes), from about November, I started preparing to wire some money to my Canadian bank account. I will try to be informative by listing out the complete requirements at the end. [See bottom.] People say you don’t necessarily need all that stuff if you just ask a Chinese national to do it for you, if you can find one that you trust with a big sum of money. It’s not technically ‘legal’ given that there are personal yearly limits specified, and it isn’t really illegal since the lines are blurry if you just give the money to a friend to transfer for you, but I want to do this right! I’m not trying to evade taxes, and I see that I will be fully within my transfer limits as a foreigner. This is who I am: I diligently build and maintain my credit rating – both generously using and fully paying off my credit card. I will do this too, even if it means I need to obtain some official documents. With this in mind I research precisely what I need to do according to Chinese law and bank rules, looking online and asking my bank representative.
  1. November. I walk into the bank and am served by a young man who appears to know little English. He one-fingers each letter of the bank address etc. onto the form, with frequent spelling mistakes. (Wince.) He takes so long that the Foreign Transfers Counter announces their closure by the time I have the form printed. The single Foreign Transfers Counter (out of 20+ counters at this big branch) is only open 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00. Each customer sits (yes, there is a chair… hint hint) at the counter for an average of 45 minutes before the business is done. The wait? No less than 30 minutes.
  2. December, the next time I have the leisure to go to the bank. I get to the foreign transfers counter after much waiting, but am told that I am missing a 9-digit CC Code. After some strained yelling across the clear plastic barrier, I obtain that this code is Institution Number + Branch number.
    “All I have is 8 digits with those numbers put together… can’t you use a SWIFT code? Isn’t that an international banking standard?”
    “ICBC cannot. You could try HSBC or Bank of China.”
    “You mean I can just take money there and do it?”
    “No, you would need to open a bank account with them.”
    “You’re telling me to take my money to another bank and open an account with them?”

    • In Which I Call TD Canada Trust Long Distance and a Helpful But Confused Representative Tells Me There is No 9-digit “CC Code” in Existence
    • In Which I Feel Vindicated but Trapped and Shed Some Hot Tears
  3. January… The young man who doesn’t know much English can recognise me now (and maybe inwardly curses the fact that I am at the bank once again), but introduces me to a Foreign Currency Expert. She says, “Oh… for Canada we usually just add a “0” in front of your Institution and Branch Number to make the 9-digit CC Code.” I had found this suggestion online already, but needed confirmation from them as the sources weren’t specific to China and weren’t fully official. We’re cutting it close to closing time but I miraculously get to sit down at the counter when a loud lady leans in between me and the counter and yells that she’s in a huge rush so the Foreign Transfers Counter guy decides to help her instead. “Excuse me?” “Come back after lunch.” I am flabbergasted and dislike his face, but get up and leave the bank quietly upset. He is, after all, the sole guardian of the counter and I cannot argue. I can’t just come back later though – I have school activities to tend to.
  4. February! I almost lose hope that there are too many people ahead of me in the queue, but the couple who are just before me seem to be having trouble with the Foreign Transfers Counter guy. He keeps yelling “CC Code” and they keep yelling, “Isn’t this the code?” (They have a SWIFT code, apparently from the alphabetical letters on their form they wave at him.) I smile sympathetically behind them and think, “Aha, my suffering will be useful!” At first they think I’m trying to cut the line or complain that they’re going to take too long (fair suspicion, given my own preceding experience), and then they see my form and that I’m also trying to wire to Canada, and begin to trust what I have to say, being that I know each of their frustrations and confusions. The Foreign Transfers Counter guy doesn’t even trust me at first, but once I speak loud enough to show my knowledge and show him my correct “CC Code” he grants that I know what I’m talking about. They give up as they realise that they don’t know the branch number and can’t find out immediately. I sit down at the counter at long last! How long does it take to complete my transaction, minus the 30 minute waiting time? 1 hour. Good heavens.
    Tired Foreign Currency Transfer guy: “You know, you should just ask a Chinese national to do this for you. It’s much less of a hassle. You don’t need all this paperwork.”
Alright, what is wrong with Chinese administration? There’s so much red tape that rebelling against an organisation is what the organisation’s representative tells you you should do. (Open an account with another bank; skip the paperwork by taking the dodgy shortcut.)
This motley of administrative traffic jams and encouragements to cut corners is precisely the kind of culture in China that means that the owner of a factory dropping heavy pollutants into a river can suffer a tiny bit of bad press, close down, and then reopen on a different river. On the other hand, you have the all too familiar, ‘Food item X is reported to have been faked with chemical Y which can cause health problems Z, T, U. Things like this make me sad and ashamed to be Chinese. These are the things we are known for in the world, not wonderful literature or innovative practices. We are a nation of ancient glories and modern iniquities.
Yes, today I am getting down on ‘my people’ and perhaps a bit too harshly, but maybe if it made more sense to play fair in China, she wouldn’t have such levels of pollution in nature and society.
——————– How to remit money from China as a foreigner ——————–
Tips for wire transfers! [See above for other details. Below is just a list of supporting documents needed.]
UPDATE: It worked! 14 February 2014, TD Canada Trust indicates that it received my amount, less handling fees. That’s pretty fast! It got there the next day. Wonders. (I had to pay fees to my Chinese bank and to my Canadian bank. 177 RMB and 32.5 CAD respectively, though I’m sure this changes from time to time.  Rather hefty at 65 bucks per wire, so don’t wire minuscule amounts!)
Officially, a foreigner can remit / wire up to 50,000 USD abroad per year. That’s plenty. You need the following items to transfer money abroad from China as a foreigner.
Before going to the bank, gather these:
  • Pay stubs enough to cover the amount you wish to remit (stamped with the official company chop from your employer) – 工资清单
  • A tax receipt obtained from the local tax office 地税局 (stamped with company chop) – 个人完税证明
    • Fun fact: The bottom of your tax receipt reads, “Thank you for your contribution to China’s flourishing and prosperity!” 感谢您为祖国繁荣昌盛做出的贡献!
  • Original work contract  (stamped with company chop)

At the bank, find and fill out these forms:

  • Before you get to the counter: Application for Funds Transfers (Overseas) – 境外汇款申请书
  • Before the counter: write a ‘letter’ of application (I, _______, apply at bank X to purchase Y amount of currency Z and to remit this amount to [insert country here] for [whatever purposes]. ID/passport number, date, signature.)
  • At the counter: 因私购汇申请书 – no English name, but it’s another application form


SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

So begins John Keats’ ode To Autumn, the oft-chosen favourite of high school poem reciters. This is due to its great multisensual imagery as well as its accessibility: it’s not too lewd, not too metaphysical, and still a classic poem. I quote it here because it mentions seasons of fruitfulness and how full they seem; so full that you begin to think this is they way things will always be.

When you’re in a season of something, it is easy to imagine it going on indefinitely, whether in good times or bad. The thing is, we are not to know when everything will come to pass, or when seasons begin and end. What we do know is that God has fixed these times for his good reasons, and he changes the times. You may have a season of joblessness, or of loneliness, or of public acclamation, or of deep companionship. The fruit from these times will last, but they are fleeting in light of eternity.

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:20-22)


This week’s sermon on authority (as something that Jesus has yesterday, today, and forever)  made me think about the words and concepts associated with authority.

authority dominion sovereign lord

power control command master redeemer

The above are graphs that show the frequency of those words appearing in the Bible. All these related concepts are used in the Bible to describe God’s status and they all relate to power and ownership. If you click on the word links above they’ll take you to the graphs where you can play around with which word you want graphed out.

Compare those graphs to saviour.

Not saying at all that ‘saviour’ is not an important aspect. But typically, I hear the name saviour talked about a lot more than master, or a sovereign lord with authority, dominion, power, control and command.

Maybe add save and salvation to the mix:

Still comparatively sparse.

The last word on the list though – redeemer – is a little different. Redeeming is to recover ownership of something. In my mind it seems to connect this authority dominion sovereign master idea with that of saviour.

Anyways, in sum, the only point I was trying to make is that I don’t dwell proportionally on the power and authority attributed to God so much as the saving aspect. Perhaps many of us don’t, hence why the quote “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) strikes such a chord.

Eternity – and why submit to authority?

Being one who has already embraced the idea of eternity, I find it difficult to identify with any lack of passion for the eternal over the temporal (this life). Carpe diem is a fine phrase – so past cliché that I can return to it and think it fine. But it can embody two very different attitudes to living: do whatever you want today because you might not be around tomorrow; or do whatever you must (which has been prepared in advance for you), even if you don’t like it, and try to enjoy it, because some day you will understand why it had to be done from the One who ordained it.

The first attitude allows action without boundaries. The guide is only desire. The second attitude is one qualified by rules, and assumes an ultimately wise entity-in-charge setting those rules. The guide must be this entity. The power to decide can lie either in you or outside of you.

For me, I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble accepting that my decisions may not be the best. And here is where I think good parenting comes in. Those children with parents who make executive decisions that may not have always been pleasant, but later can be seen to have been for the best – these parents raise children who are deferent to external guides. Parents who are somewhat inadequate in gaining the respect of their children regarding making wise choices for them all – these parents raise more self-sufficient children. Not that the first type raises ‘dependent’ kids or that some self-sufficiency is not good. But parents are the first authority that a child will come across, so they are responsible for forming their children’s attitudes towards authority. That’s why parenting is so crucial, clutch, critical.

I trust external authorities to make good decisions. Faith in something bigger than me is possible, even though I cannot have systematic proof before my eyes whether this entity (God) exists / can make good decisions / wants to make good decisions for me. Instead I will trust the testimony of millions billions worldwide, and in past generations — there is a God, he is good, he is good to me.

Just thinking about getting scared of doing difficult things…

If God were really to take over our lives I think it would be much harder, and possibly impossible, to be proud. He’d work so amazingly through us that we would know it was all God and not us. But if we live controlling our own lives, everything we do would be humanly possible, and we would start attributing it to ourselves. (Though it would still be God because God does flashy great things and tiny small things too.)

It seems to fit into the whole topic of pride and humility too. When we make our will nothing, and God’s will everything, that means first that we will need God, and second that the consequences are all due to God and that in success we will also be nothing, and have nothing to be proud of.

I guess that is why God wants us to continually do things we fear and go places we don’t want to – so that when we do it we will depend on him alone (He likes helping us) and when we succeed we will see that it was by his power.

But of course this is infinitely difficult and all our lives we will be struggling with ourselves, wanting to maintain control and stay in our safe bubble.