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Citizens of certain countries who meet the criteria are allowed 72-hour (3-day) visa-free transit via and travel in 18 China cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guilin, Kunming, Dalian, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Harbin, Wuhan, Tianjin, Shenyang, Nanjing, Qingdao, and Changsha.
Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong have had a 144-hour (6-day) visa-free transit policy for passengers from 51 countries or regions, as of 2016.
Americans (of 6 countries): the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and the Republic of Chile.
European Citizens (of 37 countries): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania.
Oceanians (of 2 countries): Australia and New Zealand.
Asians (of 6 countries): South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Airports implementing the 72-hour visa-free transit policy (on Mar 16, 2017) are Beijing Capital International Airport, Xi’an Xianyang International Airport, Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, Kunming Changshui International Airport, Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, Ximen Gaoqi International Airport, Harbin Taiping International Airport, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, Tianjin Binhai International Airport, Shenyang Xiantao International Airport, Qingdao Liuting International Airport, and Changsha Huanghua International Airport.
Foreigners holding confirmed seats on an international flight for a third country (or separately administered region of China: Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) are allowed to stay in the designated Chinese city area for 72 hours. Air tickets for the country just arrived from are not acceptable, nor are air tickets to another visa-free city in China.
The policy does not permit travel outside the prefecture-level area administered by the port of entry city. For example Beijing transit visitors can go to the Great Wall, as it's within Beijing Municipality, but not anywhere outside the Beijing border, e.g. Tianjin or Hebei Province.
Foreigners qualifying for 72-hour visa-free transit should declare to the airline company that they fly with and the border inspection authority that they are entitled to enter China. Foreigners who fail to buy outbound air tickets before entry into China are not entitled to 72-hour visa-free transit.
Those who cannot leave China for a third country within 72 hours, for whatever reason, should apply for a visa at the local Public Security Bureau Exit-Entry Administration Office. The 72-hour limit is calculated starting from 00:00 the day after arrival.
Those who fail to go through visa formalities according to the stipulations of Chinese airports will be punished according to Chinese law as illegally-residing aliens, once caught by the Public Security Exit-Entry Administration and Frontier Defense Inspection Stations. Chinese Frontier Defense Inspection Stations have a right to refuse re-applications through an airline company for 72-hour visa-free transit.