The International Convention on Driving Licences was signed in September 1949. China did not become a republic until 1st
October 1949. This is the main reason why an international driving licence cannot be used in China.
However, if you are over 18 and have a valid driving licence from another country then it is quite likely you will only basically need to do a written (computerized) test to obtain a 6 year China driving licence for a fairly minimal fee.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A
CHINA DRIVER'S LICENSE
About three years ago, whilst living in Kunming, I made enquiries about getting a China national driver's license. The process appears to be now streamlined, so I'll outline what I did in Chengdu in neighbouring Sichuan Province - January 2007. Of course, you should go to the driver licensing centre in the city which you are in.
No practical driving test is required if you are over 18 and have a valid foreign driver's license. Don't know if an International License would count though.
* Take someone with you that can write Chinese
* Chengdu licensing centre opens around 8.30am
* Take plenty of passport pix (8 is a safe number)
* Take your foreign driving licence & passport
* Go to one of the reception counters
* Collect a standard application form
* Complete the form in Chinese script
* Have medical examination which consists of reading one or
two lines on an eye-chart with either eye covered alternately.
* Take the papers back to a reception counter
* Submit form with payment over the counter
* Pay the prescribed fee
FEE: Y10 + Y280 = Y290 TOTAL
Y10 is for the actual 6 year China licence. The other Y280 is to sit the written test TWICE in case you don't score 90% or greater the first time. No partial refund if you pass first time.
* Wait in queue (seats provided) to enter exam room
* Show ticket / receipt etc & be shown to a computer
* Select which language you want to do the test in
* There are nine languages to choose from (including English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese)
The test consists of 100 randomly selected questions from the driving handbook which has about 700 questions in total. They are mostly multiple choice or TRUE / FALSE.
Computerized test time limit: 45 minutes
* Hit the "check score" icon on computer
* 90% or over ( Hao! Hao!)
* Less than 90% :
Get a new number & do again within the next ten days.
* Once you pass, take your papers back to a counter for processing. The license can be issued within ten minutes or so, depending on their workload.
* Licenses are written & issued in Chinese script
* You can only apply for one class of license at any one time. That is, if you also have a valid foreign motorcycle
license (costs Y190 ? in total) you have to do another computerized test, which appears to be the same as the car test anyway. I've never got around to getting back so far this year for my own bike license.
* Most of the questions are common sense.
* BUT it is advisable to bone up on them first
* All going well, you'll be finished before noon.
GOOD LUCK !!!