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Just had a pretty ugly fiasco today in the bank trying to exchange RMB into US$.

I want to send about $200k to my bank overseas and am short about $150k. So, figuring the $50k per year rule on purchasing foreign currency, I went to the bank taking my aiyi and my driver in tow. The idea is that each of us can buy $50k.

The good news was that the $50k per year rule is still valid. The bad news is that the implementation regulations have been recently modified to take in consideration the deteriorating balance of payment problem (i.e. financial crisis) between China and other countries (at least the US).

First of all, they said it was necessary for my two Chinese friends to have accounts in ICBC into which I could transfer enough RMB for them each to buy US$. So far, so good.

But then things started to get really shitty really fast. New rules prohibit transfers or deposits into any account of more than $5,000 per day. There are only two exceptions to this: a) you get permission from SAFE or b) you can prove you obtained the money from another bank in China. Also, in regards to transfers, you must prove a family nexus to transfer US$ from one account to another. Failing that, you have to withdraw cash and then deposit this cash into the other account.

Not wanting to leave $45k in accounts controlled by third parties and returning to the bank to transfer / withdraw $5k per day, I asked if we can just withdraw the whole $50k from each of their accounts. At least I could keep the cash under my control. No deal. Maximum cash withdrawls in US$ — with or without appointment — are $10k per day.

Hmmm … ok, then I’ll bring them back every day to buy $10k each.

Now, I want to buy $50k myself. They ask for my passport and I give them my green card. No deal, they say. So then I have to argue with them about the validity of this kind of ID. I finally win the battle by sending an SMS to the bank president.

Then they say that even though my ID is valid, I cannot buy more than $500 US$ per day unless I come up with a passport, residence permit and salary / tax documentation. Another battle ensues while I try to beat into their heads that a) I am not required to even own a passport and b) my ID card is the functional equivalent to a Chinese ID card according to the People’s Bank. After they call a dozen people and I send another SMS … I can buy my US$.

3 and 1/2 hours in the bank fighting with these people.