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Identification In China

William R. Eubank

Kunming Teacher Training Institute

Every country has methods of identifying and keeping track of citizens and foreign guests. For us in America, the primary identification method is through a drivers license, a school ID, a Social Security card and for many a bank card.

The red badge above identified my danwei as Kunming Teachers Training Institute. We didn't wear them all the time, but on special occasions when attending a regional meeting or event.

The identification shown on this page is what I was identified by in China between 1988 and 1991. Because I used these cards everyday while I was in China, I kept them as some of my most prized momentos of my time in China.

I was to have "turned them in" when I left the country, but some how that was overlooked.

Alien workers in the United States have a "Green Card" - which for most, is no longer green - China has a similar system. I entered the country in February, 1988 to finish out a contract for a teacher that had to leave after one semester. For that first half year, I was issued a paper that was attached to my passport. It was only after I was issued a teaching contract for the next full year that I was issued a regular green card. It was renewed one year later for a second full contract. I usually kept this card, along with my U.S. passport locked in a safe in my apartment - except when I went on a trip outside of Kunming.

The "work unit" was the primary block of social structure still in use in China in 1988. Each Chinese citizen and foreign guest was responsible to a primary "danwèi". My work unit was Kunming Teacher Training Institute - although I later worked for several other schools - I always did so with the permission of my primary danwèi. This worker identification card was red and I always carried it with me. I felt very secure with this card - and I knew that if I ever had to get in touch with my school, all I would have to do is show the card. Here is what it looks like on the inside.

After I had been teaching for several months, I wanted access to the school library and then to the provincial library in order to get to some English literature. My school foreign affairs officer (weiban) arranged for me to be able to check out books that were in the English section of the provincial library - it was obvious from the process that I was one of the first foreign teachers to ask for this privilege. Here is what it looks like on the inside.

The school system was slightly different. Here they issued me about twelve cards, and I left a card for each book I took out. There was also an English "reading room" that was run by the department and it was opened up twice a week.

Most public and private buildings in China had gates with security on duty. Certainly for the foreign teachers, there was not much of an identification problem but for students coming and going on bicycles, there could always be a question of identification of students that belonged to the school.

At schools in the United States, we have student and faculty parking stickers for the cars. At my school in China, we were issued bicycle key identification tags. These were easy for security to spot as you dismounted your bike to walk it through the school gate. If you had the proper key tag for your school, you could enter with ease. If you had a key tag from another school or work unit - you might be asked to "sign in".

Finally, for any official document, a bank deposit or withdrawal, or for any official report that I prepared - say end of the semester grades - there was the individual seal - or chop. I had mine prepared in ancient characters carved in marble.

Kunming Teachers Training College

About - Kunming Teacher Training Institute

Identification In China - 1988-1991

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Added to the WWW 05-26-98
Updated 06-15-2002

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William R. Eubank
1632 Burcham Drive
East Lansing, Michigan 48823
United States of America