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Electronics at the Chinese border?

Posted: Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:03 pm
by Blindcapitals
Worth mailing electronics to Beijing? Hi all, been planning my trip using caravanistan for a while, but first time posting. I'm travelling from the UK to Indonesia and back by land and sea, writing about China's Belt and Road Initiative. Basically I'm a freelance journalist and researcher - on China. I'm entering China on a tourist visa and won't be doing and writing or research while I'm there, too avoid trouble. But, I'm still nervous about my planned crossing from Kazakhstan to China. I have lots of sensitive info on my regular phone and laptop (besides a cursory look would make me look very much like a spy - photos of infra etc) and so I was considering either flying to Beijing, leaving them there, and doing a separate internal trip to Xinjiang, or mailing them to Beijing and crossing the border first off. Does anyone have any idea how much it would cost to fly a light laptop and phone from Almaty to Beijing? Am I being over cautious, and does anyone have any general advice on what to do? I want to visit Xinjiang again (last time in 2014) but I don't want to put myself, my data, or my visa at risk. Thanks in advance!

Re: Electronics at the border

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:23 am
by BakuBound
Enter China with a clean machine and keep it clean. Encrypt and load everything to cloud storage -- places like Backblaze are not expensive these days -- and don't reload it until you've left China. Consider doing a fresh install of your OS first.

Re: Electronics at the border

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:28 pm
by Blindcapitals
BakuBound wrote:Enter China with a clean machine and keep it clean. Encrypt and load everything to cloud storage -- places like Backblaze are not expensive these days -- and don't reload it until you've left China. Consider doing a fresh install of your OS first.

Thanks - so (sorry I'm bad at tech stuff), is this course of action advisable?: I enter with factory reset laptop and phone. I have everything in Google drive anyway, so will this do? I use a different Google account in china, then wipe everything once I'm out and start using again like normal?

Re: Electronics at the border

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:48 pm
by BakuBound
Remember, I also said "and keep it clean." That means do not take photos in Xinjiang. Assume everything is sensitive and that their cameras will pick up everything you do.

Re: Electronics at the border

Posted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 5:17 am
by Robinosaurus!
Blindcapitals wrote:
BakuBound wrote:Enter China with a clean machine and keep it clean. Encrypt and load everything to cloud storage -- places like Backblaze are not expensive these days -- and don't reload it until you've left China. Consider doing a fresh install of your OS first.

Thanks - so (sorry I'm bad at tech stuff), is this course of action advisable?: I enter with factory reset laptop and phone. I have everything in Google drive anyway, so will this do? I use a different Google account in china, then wipe everything once I'm out and start using again like normal?


Broadly this is correct. You might also want to have an alternative to your Google accounts. Outlook mail works well enough. You need a VPN to access Google, and more VPNs are blocked daily - what works today may not work tomorrow. Plus using a VPN on mobile data is cause for your sim card to be blocked. Finally if you use WeChat (you should, it's the only messenger to communicate with Chinese people) then it will be blocked if you use it on mobile with VPN (mine was), meaning you lose contact with everyone.

Re: Electronics at the border

Posted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:16 am
by BakuBound
I'll add that blocking your SIM card if you use a VPN seems to be a problem only in Xinjiang. I never turned on my VPN in Xinjiang for just this reason, though I use a VPN elsewhere in China without consequence (not to say it always works of course).

As to Wechat, consider carefully whether you want it installed on your phone. After installation you'll see it takes up almost 1GB -- yes, 1GB! Whatever does it need such extraordinary space for?

Re: Electronics at the Chinese border?

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:56 pm
by Blindcapitals
Thanks both! I'll be giving it a go end of the month.

Re: Electronics at the Chinese border?

Posted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:04 pm
by Lysistrata
I just wanted to post our (positive!) experience concerning electronics at the Kyrgyzstan-China-Border (Torugart): we did the crossing 2nd of September, 13 persons in 4 cars and 3 motorbikes. We also have been scared about all the rumors concerning confiscated things and the electronic stuff. Nowbody of us had to show any! device. No photos were checked, no mobiles, no computer. I also sorted our pics during the annoying waiting times at customs and we took a lot of pictures in Kasghar. At the last chinese checkpoint at Khunjerab we gave our camera to the border police officer to do some photos of us. All our vehicles have been x-rayed but they only took a very quick look in one of our cars, no search at all, no confiscated things.