Fortunately, for the citizens of most countries, taking a 45 minute theory test is sufficient to obtain the document if you have one in your own country.
Applying for the licence is an interesting experience for anyone not familiar with the country and it’s rather bureaucratic ways.
At the Vehicle Management Bureau in Shanghai, located at 1330 Hami Road, the application process has seemingly been designed to employ as many people as possible whilst at the same time appealing to fans of orienteering.
The process, which involves zigzagging across the bureau's leafy compound visiting numbered buildings, serves as something of a test of endurance - possibly to weed out those not fit to drive on the chaotic roads.
On top of a basic medical, which requires visiting seven different doctors, there are a whole army of clerical staff to process your paperwork.
Indeed at one step, there are three people employed just to attach your photo to a form – one to cut out your passport photo, another to apply glue and a third to press it to the form!
Once all these formalities are complete, there is a waiting period before you can take the theory test, which was two weeks at the time of writing.
The test can be taken in a number of different languages; although a bit of Chinese knowledge will help as this question demonstrates:
Question: The picture is a slowdown sign.
There is a bank of over 10000 questions which are randomly chosen for the test, which seem to benefit candidates with good memorizing skills more than anything.
Some questions offer interesting cultural incites like this one:
Question: The driver may drive a motorized vehicle ______.
A. After drinking alcohol
B. When he suffers from a disease that impedes safe driving
C. When he is exhausted
D. After drinking tea
Others meanwhile, focus on the punishments for not adhering to the law:
Question: If a motorized vehicle driver runs away or commits other extremely serious acts after causing a traffic accident, the driver is subject to a prison term of _____.
A. 3 years ~ 7 years
B. 2 years ~ 5 years
C. 1 year ~ 3 years
D. 3 years ~ 5 years
Whilst some are just bizarre, such as this gem:
Question: When the driver senses he will inevitably be thrown out of the vehicle, he should violently straighten both his legs to increase the force of being thrown out and jump out of the vehicle.
which is brilliantly followed up with:
Question: After jumping out of the vehicle and landing on the ground, the driver should put both his hands around his head and roll in the direction of inertia so as to evade the vehicle and keep off the danger area.
At the conclusion of your theory test, which is done on a computer, your result will be given instantly.
Correctly answer 90 of the 100 questions and you have your Chinese driving licence!