Ten days or so ago, I was frantically casting around all of my Chinese contacts, particularly amongst former employers, to see if any of them might be willing to provide an 'invitation letter' to help me obtain a new visa.
I was resigned to the likelihood of receiving a negative answer, or no answer at all, from each and every one of them.
I almost didn't bother writing to any of the universities I've worked with, because I could imagine all too vividly how useless their responses were likely to be.
Well, no, actually. After a few months clear of the country, I was starting to forget just how infuriating the place can be; I was caught slightly by surprise by the answer I received from the one university I approached. (My contact there passed on my request to the university's "Foreign Affairs" Department, and then translated their response for me in full.)
We can't get a business visa for our full-time foreign teachers.
[Er, hello, did you get that I wasn't asking for a teaching job?? I was enquiring if you could invite me as a visiting businessman to discuss possible commercial collaboration with overseas educational institutions or companies.]
We're not entitled to apply for business visas because we're not a 'governmental organization'.
[This is nonsense. Any kind of organization can issue an 'invitation letter' to support a business visa application, not just organs of government. And anyway, in China a university is a 'governmental organization'.]
We could only get a six-month single-entry business visa anyway.
[I'd been hoping for a double or multi-entry, but.... hey, I thought you said you couldn't help me apply for a business visa, period?? And it's up to the visa issuing authorities what provisos they attach to each visa; it's no concern of the entity issuing the invitation how many entries the invitee may request or be granted.]
Even if we could [be bothered to] help you, because it's the summer vacation at the moment our 'chop' - the official stamp needed to authorise documents - is locked up in the stationery cupboard (and, of course, no-one has a key!).
[Yeah, right. To be fair, it's probably in a safe; and quite possibly only the "accountant" is supposed to have access to it, and he or she might well be uncontactable for extended periods... But, basically - you just don't want to put yourself out for me, do you? You could just tell me that, rather than hiding behind these cretinous excuses.]
Chinese universities - a whole different order of vexation!