Also on a practical note, was dealing with a teacher in distress today (what a story!), which involved a trip to Western Union. Western Union is the most common way (apart from maybe bank transfer, Richard will be more familiar with these things than me) to transmit funds in and out of China. I have done it to the UK and to India, works well. Bank transfer takes 3-4 days, Western Union takes 1-2 hrs. Mostly only Philipinos and me send money out - the bank people say everyone recieves from mainly western countries.
Sending from China to outside:
Take US dollars (good luck getting those!) and passport to Western Union point - I recommend the Agricultural Bank of China on Jinsha Dong Road, close to crossroads with Tianshan Road. They are extremely friendly, well-trained, and speak English. Don’t go to the post office. They are moody and unhelpful and no one lines up, very stressful.
If you are sensible and go to the bank I recommend, they will guide you through the form filling process and logging of money and things, and that is that. You will get a number which you should give to the reciever. You will need the sender’s home address and your home address, and the city to which you are sending the money to but nothing more exact.
Receiving in China (or anywhere really!) from outside:
Take passport, that special number, and the home addresses of you and the sender to any Western Union point in your city. In Shantou, recomend aforementioned bank. They’ll give you the money, don’t know if in dollars or rmb though.
I did discover today that you can transfer money from abroad into a local bank account, which is very simple to open, you just need 50rmb to put in it, and a passport. Then you give the bank name and address, which they have on little pieces of paper for you, and you tell your bank. I haven’t tried it but apparently it is very simple. It helps that these days bank workers are so wonderfully polite, Chinese manners at their best, and I love it. That is the future I think. Maybe they should privatise the post office.