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总领事馆 是 什么? What is a Consulate?

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By bsmonroe, on June 15, 2010

Last week came and went very quickly.  So many things happened that I don’t know where to start.  I guess a good place to begin would be to answer the question:

What is a Consulate? A Consulate is an extension of the Embassy that provides services to overseas Americans and visas to foreigners.

The scope of what the Consulate in Shenyang is responsible for is daunting.  First and foremost it is responsible for American citizens in the three Northeastern provinces: Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang.  Currently there are about 2,500 Americans living and working in China’s Northeastern region. Here are some of the services provided by the American Consulate.  These are pretty much the basic services provided by Consulates around the world.  To stay up-to-date on any developments that can jeopardize their safety it is very important that American citizens, when traveling abroad, register with their nearest Embassy or Consulate.

The second goal of the Consulate, to provide visas to foreigners, is a very time consuming process.  I don’t normally work in this section of the Consulate but I did volunteer for a couple of hours last Saturday to gain a better understanding.  From what I could tell, regardless of what the television has been saying over the past few years, America’s appeal is still very strong. Millions of people from China alone apply yearly to visit or go to school in America.  The appeal is so strong in fact, the Embassy ordered all Consulates to extend their workweek to Saturday to deal with the backlog of visa applications/interviews.  The Consulate in Shenyang is a very small installation that has to weed through hundreds of applications and interviews daily.  I can only imagine the workload in much larger places like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

The functions that I just described are the responsibilities of the Consular section, which is normally the largest section within an Embassy or Consulate.  There are other sections that also assist with achieving the Consulate’s goals.  They are the Political, Economic and Public Affairs sections.

I work in the Political/Economic section (the sections are combined due to the small size of the staff).  We monitor a large number of items from labor disputes to changes in city/regional leadership.  Input from the Political & Economic sections are generally the basis for issuing travel alerts, as in the case of Bangkok, Thailand this year or Xinjiang Province, China last year.

The Management section is responsible for everything from Procurement to Human Resources to Facilities Maintenance. I will further discuss this section in later blog postings.   The two remaining sections are the IT section and Security section.

Additionally, the Consulate in Shenyang houses two federal agencies, the Foreign Commercial Services (FCS) and the Agricultural Trade Organization (ATO).  Compared with the Embassy in Beijing this is virtually nothing.  The Embassy in Beijing is pretty much a mini-D.C.  The CDC, FAA, EPA, FDA, & DHS are just a few agencies housed in the gigantic compound. which is second in size to only the Embassy in Baghdad…I think.

Last Week’s Events:

I participated in the two representational events.  The first one was a BBQ for the Mark Sherman-Tim Horner Quartet. For 2010 this quartet is sponsored by  Jazz at Lincoln Center and the United States Department of State to be Goodwill Ambassadors.  This BBQ was designed to introduce Jazz to Chinese high school and college students.  The quartet is currently on a four city tour of Asia.  Here is a link to Mark Sherman’s blog on his experiences in Seoul, Shenyang, Guangzhou and Manilla.  The guys in the band were all very cool and laid back.

The second representational event I participated in was “The 2nd annual party for the Chinese and the Foreigners in Shenyang: Feel the Fragrance of Zong-zi feel Shenyang” Dragon Boat Festival celebration.  That is quite the mouthful and I still don’t know what it means exactly.  The Dragon Boat Festival is a holiday that harkens back to Ancient Chinese culture and is celebrated by the Koreans, Japanese and Vietnamese alike.

Other Stuff:

The fourth of July holiday is rapidly coming up.  The employees here get 3 days off.  Many travel for the holiday. I plan to as well.  However I don’t know where exactly.  Hong Kong has been offered as a possibility but I don’t have a multiple entry visa, which would allow me to reenter China.  I have been thinking of going north to Harbin or maybe going to southern Liaoning Province to Dalian.  I would appreciate any suggestions/recommendations.

I will get a new camera sometime during the next week.  I need some photos on this blog.

Also if anyone wants to video chat via Skype, my user ID is: barronii.

Peace, until next week…

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2 Responses to “总领事馆 是 什么? What is a Consulate?”

  1. Joel Galbraith

    Thanks for the update. My daughter just arrived in Zhangjiajie yesterday (Hunan province). She’ll be there and in Changsha. I’m not sure she registered with any consulate, but she’s only there for 2 weeks. She questions the apparent local law requiring all men to go shirtless. Even their bus driver goes shirtless ;-).

    She’s there with some graduates and teachers of Durham Public Schools on a Bridge Fellowship provided through a Sister Cities of Durham program whose stated purpose is “to promote peace, understanding, and goodwill among all people by maintaining long-term affiliations with communities in other countries; the goal is to develop mutually beneficial activities, program and ideas for each world community.”

    Does the consulate get involved in sister city initiatives, or is that largely off their radar?

    • Barron Monroe

      Good for your daughter. Places like Zhangjiajie and Changsha are not Beijing and Shanghai. She has the chance to experience two Chinese cities that are, by comparison, less internationally influenced. Not only is the shirtless-ness a requirement but so to are spitting in public and staring at foreigners.

      As I understand it the consulate does not get too involved in sister city initiatives. However we do keep track of some of them. For example Harbin, Heilongjiang Province and Fairfax County, VA are in the process of forming a similar relationship.

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