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Here's something I found on trade.gov (International Trade Administration):

The following items are prohibited from entering China: arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds; counterfeit currencies and counterfeit negotiable securities; printed matter, magnetic media, films, or photographs that are deemed to be detrimental to the political, economic, cultural, and moral interests of China; lethal poisons; illicit drugs; disease-carrying animals and plants; foods, medicines, and other articles coming from disease-stricken areas; old/used garments; and local currency (RMB). Food items containing certain food colorings and additives deemed harmful to human health by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) are also barred.

Other Google search results seem to contradict this information, suggesting that I can bring up to 20,000 RMB. Which one is correct?

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    It used to be forbidden, but I think the restriction has been lifted many years ago. It may be that the information you are quoting is outdated. May 8, 2023 at 13:07
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: the website is dated 2023-04-07. It may be that the info is outdated but the site itself claims to be current.
    – Hilmar
    May 8, 2023 at 14:15
  • I've entered China often with some RMB in my pocket (left over cash from a previous trip). No one ever asked or complained about it. Granted, these were generally small sums. The official limit seems to be RMB 20,000. english.customs.gov.cn/statics/…
    – Hilmar
    May 8, 2023 at 14:17
  • "old/used garments" That strikes me as rather odd. May 9, 2023 at 2:10
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    @Tonny Even worse, you apparently also have to have your arms amputated before you enter! May 9, 2023 at 12:51

2 Answers 2

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Here is an official gov.cn page (in English) showing the restrictions:

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So the currency import or export of Chinese currency is limited 20,000 CNY In addition, if you have foreign currency exceeding USD 5000 you need to fill out some paperwork (and retain a copy so you can remove whatever of that money you may still have when you leave, if it adds up to more than $5,000 USD).

In practice nobody checks anybody's pockets or money belts, but 20,000 CNY is quite a stack of cash (biggest note being 100 CNY) and all bags are X-rayed at customs (very rarely do they ask to have a look inside though) so if you've got a suitcase stuffed with cash they may well find it.

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    Maybe they only rarely look into your bags but from my experience Chinese security checks are quite thorough. I always had the impression that they would find out if you were carrying anything you were not supposed to whereas Western security checks seemed to aim for proving they performed a check not to actually find anything.
    – quarague
    May 9, 2023 at 6:23
  • @quarague I'm referring to the rather cursory X-ray of your bags after you get off the plane or walk across the border upon arrival rather than security checks. Most Western crossings don't have anything like that at all. I suspect they're mostly looking for large quantities of contraband (and probably weapons at the land boundaries). I have seen organized smuggling rings operating from the HK side at the Lo Wu crossing- seemed to be a tax avoidance scheme of some kind rather than anything too nefarious. May 9, 2023 at 12:45
  • Where are you getting the “total of all foreign and CNY” bit from? As I read the text, the CNY/RMB and foreign amounts are separate, and the paperwork is only required for foreign currencies, not for CNY/RMB. // From my experience, even the cursory arrival checks are quite thorough. My dad (who’s a smoker) had a lighter in his bag, which they caught in the X-ray scan – they promptly opened the bag and confiscated the lighter. May 9, 2023 at 12:48
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I think you're right, I'll edit. The later text at that web page makes it a bit more clear. Surprising they would confiscate a lighter at arrival (why?), not surprising at security before getting on the plane. Those checks are quite appropriately thorough and efficient. May 9, 2023 at 12:55
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Both the German and Austrian travel advice sites state that up to 20,000 RMB is allowed. The UK travel advice (Entry requirements - China travel advice - GOV.UK) doesn't meantion customs regulations.

@Hilmar: That's supported by the Chinese customs page itself: Customs Clearance Guide for International Passengers


Einfuhrbestimmungen Die Einfuhr von Fremdwährung ist für Ausländer unbegrenzt möglich, muss aber ab einem Wert von 5.000 USD bei Einreise deklariert werden. Die Ausfuhr ist bei einem Wert von über 5.000 USD auf den bei Einreise deklarierten Betrag beschränkt. Landeswährung darf bis zu 20.000 RMB ein- und ausgeführt werden.

Import regulations The import of foreign currency is unlimited for foreigners, but must be declared upon entry if the value is USD 5,000 or more. If the value exceeds USD 5,000, the export is limited to the amount declared upon entry. National currency can be imported and exported up to 20,000 RMB.


Sources:

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