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I am considering bringing a netbook on my trip to China, arriving via Beijing International Airport. I am mostly concerned about what will happen at the border.

Do I have to show it at the border, or only have them look through it on demand. Do I need to take it out of my backpack? I heard that they occasionally check which books people have on their e-reader (by sample probably), is this actually happening? I would like to know what I can expect when traveling into China with a netbook in my backpack.

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Many my colleagues have travelled to China with notebooks and never had any problem. On the other hand, they all had official invitation from the "Department of Education", which likely makes your life a bit easier. –  tohecz Mar 8 '13 at 9:37
    
It is very unlikely that they will check your netbook. Beijing is one of the largest airports in the world, so authorities wouldn't be able to check all passenger's laptops and netbook even if they wanted to. Nevertheless they can inspect your luggage and netbook if they want to (e.g. if they have any suspicions). –  R-traveler Mar 8 '13 at 19:34
    
For a more specific answer I would suggest you add your point of entry in China to the question. As noted in my answer, Beijing is no problem, but this might be different on other entry points. –  Bart Arondson Mar 8 '13 at 23:09
    
@BartArondson I updated this in the question. –  Bernhard Mar 10 '13 at 22:14
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2 Answers

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I've carried a laptop into Shanghai probably 20 times by now. Never have they opened a single bag or even known I was carrying it. Only once has customs shown any interest in our baggage and that was long ago--I was wheeling out a cart piled with 4 suitcases (but no carryons) and there wasn't anyone else going out at the time. Unusual--it drew the interest of a customs guy. The entry stamp two days earlier drew more interest. He started running the bags through his x-ray when my wife caught up (she was taking forever talking to the baggage people, I finally headed out to get her to quit talking) and explained we were picking up our bags the airline left behind and that was the end of it. (I left the explanation to her as she's a native speaker.)

On the other hand 6 years ago she tripped a nuke scanner at customs and nobody showed up. We waited a bit and finally walked on out.

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I have been to China in 2012 and arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport. I had a laptop and camera in my carry-on luggage, but my carry-on was not checked at all in China, it was only x-rayed in the country I flew from (Belgium).

Keep in mind that if you enter China in a different way (e.g by land) you might encounter a different situation. Here's a forum post from 2007 where a guy claims he saw a Lonely Planet being confiscated at the border.

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Lonely Planet could be full of pro-Tibet and pro-Taiwan proaganda ... –  hippietrail Mar 10 '13 at 1:27
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