December is not a good time to travel in China in terms of weather conditions, as it is freezing in most of the country. In the North it is bone-chillingly cold and windy. The average temperature in Beijing is -1°C (30°F) and the lowest temperature can plummet to -12°C (10°F). The average temperature in Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province is -15°C (5°F) and the lowest temperature is around -50 (-58°F). Ski resorts in Beijing and the rest of North China begin to open to tourists from December.
Central China and regions south of the Yangtze River also experience freezing weather. The weather in these regions can feel colder than in the north due to its dampness. South China is milder, but it is not really warm (apart from Hainan). Take Guilin for example: it is often nose-numbingly cold and windy, but it is also possible to sit outside in warm clothes and get sunburnt on a bright and still winter day. The lowest temperature on average is around -1°C (30°F). Winter in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Hainan Island is comfortable. Yunnan in Southwest China also has mild winter weather.
It is dry on most days in North China. Indeed December is a dry month throughout China. In early December you may be able to see the last of the year's fall foliage.
North China: It is bone-chillingly cold. A warm overcoat, such as a heavy, long, down coat, warm hat, scarf, gloves and snow boots are needed to keep warm.
Central China: A light down coat, sweater, boots, and wind-proof jacket are usually enough.
South China: South China generally does not have typical winter weather. Late autumn dress is fine for December travel, but you are still advised to bring warm clothes, in preparation for any cold weather, and for if you are stationary for long periods of time. In South China many buildings have no heating.
The dozens of ski resorts around Beijing begin to receive tourists in December. If you want to hit the slopes in this season, Beijing is a good option for you. See Ski Resorts Around Beijing
Harbin is one of China's most famous winter destinations, because the sub-zero weather there has resulted in various winter activities. Ski resorts of various sizes and scales are scattered around the region. Yabuli Ski Resort, China's best ski resort is located near Harbin. See China's Top Ski Resorts
Hainan Island is the best winter escape destination in China. It has a number of tropical beaches. For winter travelers, it is not unlike Hawaii in the US, which serves as a favorite tropical oasis to escape the cold winter.
See our China Winter Travel Guide