What Time Is It In China?

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Why didn't older generations of Chinese people learn about time zones in school? Because all of China uses only one time zone! China is about the same size as the USA, Canada, and Australia in square kilometers. All of these countries have 3-4 time zones. The entire country follows the time in the capital, Beijing (北京时间), which is officially known as China Standard Time (CST). It's convenient for scheduling calls and meetings both within China and internationally. However, it does shift sunrise and sunset for some of the outlying areas across China's 5 geographic time zones (5,000km). Fortunately, 94% of the population lives in the Eastern half of the country where sunrise and sunset only vary 1-2 hours laterally.

 Population Density of China

Population Density of China

Over the span of 50 years in the early 1900s, China changed the standard time zone 7 times. It wasn't until 1949 when standards were set by the Communist government and Chairman Mao that the current single time zone system was set according to the sunrise and sunset in Beijing.

Another difference between many Western countries and China's time is that China does not observe daylight savings time. In fact, all of Asia doesn't use daylight savings time. Except for 5 years in the late 1980s, China has never used daylight savings time. They tried it in an effort to save energy by aligning the clocks with the sun better but it was an unpopular decision that didn't last.


This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.