I want the Chinese ID equivalent

By Walter Shearer Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/7 16:03:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


China seems to be a kind of plastic card utopia. Before I came to live here, I don't think I ever had more than three plastic cards: an ATM card, a credit card and my driver's license. Now, I have three ATM cards, two gas cards, an electricity card, a subway/bus card, my work ID, and two mystery cards issued by the government. I still have the three I had before I arrived, which means I now have 13, at least. I could easily have missed a couple.

I am sure my phone can replace some of these cards, but no one is very keen on showing me how to do it, and I strongly suspect that it won't be as easy. I know my phone can replace the subway card, but what about when I travel on the bus?

I seldom use one of the ATM cards and the two gas cards, never. One of the gas cards is nothing more than a number on a piece of plastic.

It turns out that one of the government-issued cards is for social security and the other is my Foreigner's Work Permit.

When I obtained the new, shiny work permit card, my employer assured me that it would be a multifunction miracle and "exactly the same" as a Chinese citizen's ID card. I immediately attempted to use it to go to Tianjin and got as far as a ticket window at the Beijing South Railway Station. I had wanted to buy my ticket from a machine like a Chinese citizen would, but failed, of course. The girl behind the glass, who was otherwise very charming, had no idea what my card was used to do.

When I got to Tianjin the next day, it proved useless in checking into a hotel, and when I went to register, my local police showed no interest in it at all.

Which brings me to the point of this minor fulmination, despite having more plastic than I can ever use, I still crave more.

What I really want is an ID card that is exactly the same as a Chinese citizen's.

Carrying one's passport all the time is just simple craziness. I used to carry a photocopy, but a few friends have had problems with that, and when security is tightened, it is necessary to carry your housing registration, too.

A passport is a very expensive document. Mine cost more than $300. Losing one's passport causes enormous difficulties not just with visas, but in all kinds of other ways. Only a fool would carry it everywhere!

But it is not just about the risks, inconvenience and expense. When I go to the bank, catch a train, or try to sign up for something online, I want to be treated the same as everyone else. I want it to be as easy as possible for the receptionist or teller to deal with my business.

It's difficult enough for them to deal with my language issues without having to handle a strange document. Being "weird" can be very tiring.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


blog comments powered by Disqus