Difference Between Quanqiutong and Shenzhouxing

John asked what is the difference between Quanqiutong and Shenzhouxing SIM card after my blog entry Mobiles in China – My Personal Perspective. I believe it is a good topic to initiate a new article on this topic.

Quanqiutong and Shenzhouxing in Chinese

For people who don’t speak Chinese, these two words are so strange that are even hardly to read. Before I dive into the technical difference part, let me explain the terms.

Quanqiutong is actually three characters (words) in Chinese:

Quan Qiu Tong

Let me try to explain the meaning although it is always not easy to directly translate Chinese.

Quan means all, entire

Qiu means globe, the earth

Tong means connected,pass

So combined together, it means “You can get connected throughout the whole world”.

For Shenzhouxing, which can also be spelled as “Shen Zhou Xing

Shen means magic,grand

Zhou means state,country

Xing means travel

Shen Zhou means China in Chinese language

So Shenzhouxing can be translated “Travel across China”

Difference between Quanqiutong and Shenzhouxing

These two SIM cards are all issued by China Mobile Communication Corp. (CMCC). Quanqiutong is subscription based card and Shenzhouxing is prepaid card.

I didn’t noticed it yet before I wrote this article – the names themselves described the difference between the two SIM card.

For Quanqiutong (You can get connected throughout the whole world), it can be used in more than 50 counties with the roaming services. It has more functions than Shenzhouxing, like WAP, SMS Broadcast, IP Phone, Voice message, Data communication, Fax, Call transfer…. It provide the basic functions as most mobile providers. This is the majority of all CMCC users.

For Shenzhouxing, however, it can only be used in China as name implies: “Travel across China”

Difference in payment methods

The key difference does not lie in coverage. Quanqiutong takes the billing approach like fixed telephone – call first and pay at the end the month. So the application is relatively complicated since you need to provide your national ID card (or passport) and fill in the application form in the service centers of CMCC.

For Shenzhouxing, it takes the pay first then call approach. You can control your mobile fee by only deposit certain amount of money. Since it is prepaid card, anyone can buy any card freely from any dealer. There is no monthly subscription fee. What you need to do is to buy “value card” from time to time and enter the card ID and the password with the card via the service number 13800138000.

Prepaid or not prepaid, it is a question

Prepaid card charges 0.6 RMB per minute for local calls at the time when this article is written. Quanqiutong charges 0.4 RMB per minute + 50 RMB monthly subscription fee. By simple calculation, you know that if dial local calls for 250 minutes in one month, the both cards charge you the same amount of money – 150 RMB. If you spend more than 250 minutes, Quanqiutong is more economic for you, otherwise, you’d better choose Shenzhouxing.

Let me know if you have more questions. BTW, I am using Quanqiutong SIM card.

Update March 26, 2003

Jim reminded me that besides the two card mentioned before, China Mobile also provide two more prepaid cards: GoTone E-Tone Card and GoTone E-Da Card.

Logo of GoTone (Quanqiutong in Chinese)

It is the standard contract based (subscribe based) service, as refered in Quanqiutong in this article.

Logo of Shenzhouxing

This is the Shenzhouxing card. 0.15 RMB per SMS sent to CMCC mobiles or 0.20 RMB if sent to China Unicom mobiles.

Logo of GoTone E-Tone card

Prepaid card. 0.10 RMB per SMS for CMCC mobiles and 0.15 RMB if the message is sent to Unicom mobile from CMCC mobile. It is a local card only available in Shanghai – the card can be used outside Shanghai, but the recharge card and the SIM card is only available in Shanghai market.

Logo of GoTone E-Da card

Enjoys the same charge standard as Quanqiutong (GoTone) – I have never seen it.

Quit confusing, isn’t it?

60 thoughts on “Difference Between Quanqiutong and Shenzhouxing

  1. I plan to bring my mobile phone with me to use with Shenzhouxing card during my 1 week in Shainghai.Would you please tell me the price for the sim card with minimum amount of pre-paid talk time? And in what place should I find english speaking sell person for the sim card? Is it easy enough for the non chinese speaking person tojust buy from any reseller?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Karp, as I know, the price for a Shenzhouxing Pre-Paid SIM card is 100 RMB. There is not communication fee included in the SIM card. You have to buy the value card which has: 50, 100, 300 and 500 RMB.

    For the value card, it is easy to buy from any where – any small store or newspaper reseller should be reseller of the value card.

    To buy SIM card, however, is not as easy. Any mobile store should have SIM card available. There are many stores around the city.

    It should be fine for you, as non-English speaker to survive in Shanghai. I guess you can get the card without big problem. Although not everyone in Shanghai speak English, you can always find someone to help you interperret for you.

  3. Thanks for the info,i need the phone to keep contact with a friend who will be my host,I plan to get lost many time during that week. :)

    On my first trip to Shanghai I can easily find an english speaking person on the street just look for any young person, better with someone in a suit.

  4. Good point – ask some young man in suite – they can speak English and can offer help to you. A mobile with SIM card can greatly help you when you are in Shanghai – especially when you are not familiar with the city.

  5. I bought a quanqiutong card from a street vendor–he says that all I need to do is to re-charge with a recharge card. Does this mean there’s no need to bring an ID and make an application??

  6. Jim,

    I believe you have bought the Shenzhouxing Card instead of Quanqiutong Card. Quanqiutong card cannot be bought on street – it must be applied in a China Mobile Customer Service Center. You need to bring your ID card and make an application. However, Shenzhouxing is the prepaid card.

    If the reseller told you that you still need to re-charge the card, it must be Shenzhouxing card. However, it is not a big deal since you can see the difference between the two cards in the article above.

  7. Also, does “quanqiutong” mean that it has global roaming to Hong Kong, Europe, etc?

  8. I bought it in a small street shop. The envelope that the SIM card came on says “E-Tong Card” on it, and the the card itself says “quanqiutong”. And they say I can re-charge it. All this is so confusing!

  9. Is it possible to set up the prepaid cards to do call forwarding to international numbers?

  10. Jackson, I have tried it yet. But I suppose it to be possible since the Shenzhouxing card has the international call function by default (on the contary, the Quanqiutong card cannot dial international call by default since the operator don’t want to bear the risk of unpaid bills for the international calls.)

  11. I would like to find out if my mobile phone will be compatible with the shenzhouxing card – Is there an english web site or phone number I can contact for more information. Thank you.

  12. I have one of the E-tong sim cards, and use the prepaid credit thingio.

    Am I debited for incoming calls and messages? I hardly ever make calls using my mobile, yet you can bet when I need to make that one important call I am barred, OR my service is suspended so I cannot receive calls either. As such, should I get a warning saying I have little credit left and therefore should ‘top it up’?

    Any info on the two questions above would be much appreciated.

  13. Can you tell me the cost of obtaining a

    Shenzhouxing SIM card in China? It cost about $70.00 here in US


  14. Kon, here is the cost:

    You need to buy the initial package at 150 RMB, including

    A SIM card with card numbers coded in it.

    50 RMB talking time

    Check my article for the rate:


    Then you can buy pre-paid card (or value card, whatever you call it). There are face value of 50 RMB, 100 RMB, 300 RMB cards. You buy the card, get the user name and password on the card and dial China Mobile’s phone number to deposit money.

  15. Hi me again…I just read your answer regarding the differences between the 2 sorts of cards here for mobiles. I went to China Mobile I had to pay 50 RMB (for..I am not sure what!) and 100 rmb for ‘credit’ (as my translater put it) and the lady also asked me for a pin number..but she said it was to enable me to check how much credit was available on my card. I also had to show my P’port…so does this mean I have a Quanqiutong card or a Shenzhouxing card. Very confused as I seem to have characteristics of both!!!!!Help!!

  16. ..I forgot to add…I am asking because i really really would like to be able to send SMS home to Australia!!

  17. Well. I don’t know but I will pay attention to it next time I visit PVG. I think there should be some shop there since it is a common requirement.

  18. I tried to buy a card in PVG on July 8, but after being directed to 3 different desk I gave up. Unimpressive airport.

    I went to a China Mobile shop in Pudong and they were extremely nice and sold me what turs out to be a Shanghai Mobile E-Tong card. It comes with absolutely no English instructions, not even on the website!! The balance inquiry number (1861) responds in Chinese only. Customer service (1860) does speak English (press 2) and will tell you the balance, but they don’t have Caller ID(!) so they will ask you to tell them your 11 digit number.

    I cannot find if there’s voicemail (it’s not set up), and although the website says that call waiting “requires no application”, it’s not working (service denied when I try to activate). Also, no international SMSs are allowed, but at least you can call the local foreign telco access number (like AT&T) and make international calls that way.

    All in all, this product works a little but hope they improve it to facilitate visitors!

  19. I will be traveling to Shanghai, Ningbo, Wuxi, Yongkang and Chengdu from October 13th through October 26th. I need to have a cell phone that will allow me to receive calls from China (primarily those same cities), the U.S. and Mexico. Also, I need to be able to make calls to the same areas. I prefer the pre-paid methods.

    Please let me know the simplest and most certain way to accomplish this. In other words,

    What cell phone should I purchase?

    What pre-paid phone card should I purchase?

    Is the sim card part of the pre-paid card or cell phone or do I need to purchase the sim-card separately? If so, which should I buy?

    Lastly, can I buy these in the U.S. before I leave or should I buy them in Shanghai?

    Your assistance is greatly appreciated. Best regards,


  20. I just called 1860 to get help and it was fine. The guy was even so helpful as to inform me that you can send an SMS to number 21861 with the txt yecx and then the company will send you your balance info. Not helpful for me as I have brought my danish phone and it only works with european languages, so the messages from the company are all garbled. Might help some of you though.

  21. I am a frequent traveler to China,I need to know whether there is a prepaid card which i can buy that provide WLAN services for China.

  22. I think there is a kind of card that provide WLAN. It is a WLAN adaptor (PC card interface) that can be installed to your latop. Check the Basement story of Metro Tower at Xujiahui

  23. I will be arriving in PVG on the 25th (Christmas Day), do you know if they already have a counter selling the shenzhouxing SIM? This would really help.

    Merry X’Mas to Everyone.



  24. Hi

    With regards to buying airtime vouchers(pre-paid phone card), SIM cards work everywhere to make/receive calls in China. You can buy airtime vouchers in Shanghai. If you are in elsewhere, shops do not supply the same type of airtime vouchers which people normally sell/buy in Shanghai. Every province is different. You can try www. china-mobile-phones.com asking for recharge service through calls or emails while you are in other provinces need to reload airtime.

    Have a nice trip !



  25. Hi Jianshuo, i sent you an email a few weeks/mths (?) ago but i think you’ve been really busy. I am going to Shanghai next Tuesday and have a friend there.

    I’ve asked my friend to get a prepaid SIM card for me first so that i can contact my friends who are using non-China sim cards (on autoroam) in Shanghai. (These friends are visiting Shanghai with me).

    I was wondering if it is possible to make an overseas call, and send SMS to an overseas number using a Shen Zhou Xing card? and would you have any clue where we can find more info on Shen Zhou Xing cards??

    You see, my friend has been in Shanghai for almost a year and still can’t figure out how to send an SMS to an overseas number using the prepaid card (i’m assuming my friend is using Shen Zhou Xing, as I was told it is a prepaid card). the norm would be to add a plus sign in front of the country code etc. but i don’t think that works in my friend’s case

    Would really appreciate your soonest reply on this- Thanks (it was not very encouraging to read of the rainy season though.. sob..)

  26. Hi

    I saw your comments on the shenzhouxing SIM card, can you get hold of these cards for foreigners wishing to travel to China ? If so how much in US $ ?


  27. It is possible to send SMS and call abroad from China, but I think the only way is to register yourself, even you use a prepay SIM-card.

    Guess what the reason can be; remember – this is China !

    I had to register at China Mobile and pay 500 RMB in advance (if I should chat too much in the phone, I guess…). + the price of SIM-card of course.

    It can be difficult to send SMS INTO China.

    Be careful of the content… It’s safer to use a foreign based email.

    Dial 00 and country code to send an SMS, not a “+” sign.

  28. By the way, to check the remaining amount, write yecx and send to 1861, not 21861.

    If you call abroad it will take some time to register the new balance of the account, up to 1 day, I guess.

  29. Hi Jian Shuo,

    I will soon go from Germany to China for my first time. From a colleage who stayed in Shanghai for several year I got what looks like a China Unicom “Ru yi tong” prepaid card. She said she could use and recharge it easily both in Shanghai and Beijing (the places I will go too). I wonder why you don´t mention that kind of card in this thread. Any comments how it compares to “Shen Zhou Xing” and others?

  30. Hi Joachim,

    Yeah, you are right. In china, there are only two cell phone operators: China Mobile and China Unicom. China Mobile just maintains GSM/GPRS network. But China Unicom managers two kinds of mobile network: GSM and CDMA. CDMA technic is very difference with GSM.

    Comparing the fee, for one minute local call, the charge of “Ru yi tong” is 0.01~0.02 Euro(0.1~0.2RMB) lower than “Shen zhou Xing”.

    Now china Unicom put most effort on CDMA network, and almost stop invest in GSM. China mobile is largest operator, its quality of sevice and nework covering is more better than China Unicom, especially in the country. In city,they can offer the same service. China Mobile has 96% GSM covering in mainland.

    If you only stay in Shanghai and Beijing, no main impact either you using the “Ru yi tong” or “Shen Zhou xing”. Aslo you can be one subscriber of China Unicom CDMA nework. The CDMA’s Data service is more better than GSM/GPRS.

    If you want to voyage whole china(e.g to some famous countrysides), you’d better subscribe to China Mobile and use “Shen zhou Xing” or “Quan qiu tong”.

  31. Hi “Trivial”

    thanx for the comment. I have a GSM phone, so CDMA is of no concern. Speaking of “famous countrysides”, will Ruyitong still work in Chengde, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi or probably smaller places around the Tai Lake area? (That´s as far as I plan to go from the really big cities on this first trip!) If it already has problems there, while Shenzhouxing has none, I think I better will buy the latter card already after arrival at Beijing airport. At around RMB 100 it´s not expensive!

  32. I bought two ShenZhouXing G.S.M. S.I.M. cards in BeiJing airport late at night for my long treks across China, one cost 280 Yuan, while the other cost 380 Yuan, both come with a complementary 100 Yuan charge couchers.

    The cards are a bit quite more expensive than the price that Jian Shuo Wang quoted for the cards sold in ShangHai (around over 80 Yuan more expensive), but considering that I might not have the chance to encounter these type of cards again and I’m traveling with a tour (which can be quite restrictive, I can’t even go on the MagLev while in Shanghai), I rather paid expensive than to be communicationless from day one. Besides, things tend to be always more expensive at the airport, and they probably got a limited amount of it at the airport, just hope the sales girl got a nice commision on every card she sold.

    The 380 Yuan one was priced 100 Yuan more expensive because it got a much easier number to memorized, while the 280 Yuan has a pretty regular number, though considering how many 4 it gots, I think some would be quite suprised that I’m still alive.

    As for S.M.S. into China.

    Well… I have no problem with it at all… using my own country S.I.M. card set into roaming mode using China Mobile. I forgot though if ShenZhouXing was capable of the same.

    Personally, I think that they limit the amount of outgoing International S.M.S. probably due the fact if it’s that easy, the network could be jammed from the flood of all of those messages. Trust me, if a network is jammed, you have more luck sending messages through regular mails. It should be noted that many prepaid phone in many countries don’t provide S.M.S. service while doing international roaming, and China is as big as some countries combine into one.

    Really, a country as big as China with a huge popupation with a huge population of mobile phones, imagine all the mobile phones call the network at the same time, it could bring down the entire network.

    As for network coverage in small cities.

    I have good coverage of ShenZhouXing in both SuZhou and GuiLin. The same goes for the Great Wall area and the Ming Tomb area (definetly not inside the tomb though).

    I don’t consider Hangzhou as a small city, at least, not if one don’t consider Las Vegas as as small city. And yes, I got good coverage on HangZhou too. Personally, if the reputation of China Mobile is true, you pretty much got a good coverage all around China. If you’re affraid of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no coverage, just get Byru (www.byru.net). Besides, a satellite phone could be quite handy if someone decided to bring down the whole phone system by calling all of the phone numbers.

    As for foreign based e-mail.

    Why? Even if you use it, the network you using would be still Chinese network anyway, unless you use something like Byru, though that would have been little extreme, and besides, communications around the world are always monitored by ‘them’, even the communication system in China is owned by ‘them’, how do you think that China got so ‘wired’ that quick?

    As for P.I.N., User Password, and so on for ShenZhouXing.

    It’s inside your package, it’s a proof of identity that you own the card and incase your lost it, you can get a new one with the same phone number.

    A brief info about ShenZhouXing can be found here:




    Or at your manual. For more, I suggest talking either to customer service or someone who is an expert (like a phone store manager and so on).

  33. It should be noted that ShenZhouXing doesn’t contain a word of China in it,

    “ZhongGuo” (Middle Kingdom/Country) is China in Mandarin. ShenZhouXing can be roughly interpreted as a divinity (Shen) that roams (Xing) through many counties/area (Zhou), ShenZhouXing seems to focused on its roaming around China capability.

  34. I just moved to Shanghai, and I just bought China Mobile SIM card, its a prepaid card with number starts with 1368.

    I need to know how to activate the GPRS service… can anyone help me with this?

  35. i’m studying in beijing, is there ANY way i can get a GoTone e-Tong card in beijing? i DESPERATELY need a prepaid card that i can use in other countries!!! help! does anyone know if ChinaMobile offers other prepaid services/SIMcards (besides the GoTone e-tong card) capable of international roaming, preferably something i can buy in beijing? thx

  36. I travel into Shanghai three x per year, visiting both Suzhou and Hangzhou. I use a Blackberry 7290 (Cingular) for both voice and email (phone is quad band). My las trip to Shanghai, I could not get access to GPRS network, only GSM. Can you tell me if I get a prepaid sim from China Mobile for GSM/GPRS, if I can receive emails which are directed to my handheld from the USA? I assume sim cards give you a different phone number.

  37. Can some one tell me how to check the mobile balance via SMS like it should be displaced in mobile i dont want to check the balace via voice message

    if some one help me in this metter please post your messages


  38. If I buy a ShenZhouXing card in Beijing, will the calls be ‘roaming’ when I go to Xian or Shangahi?



  39. I have a phone no 137xxxxxxxx, I can receive a call/SMS from within china, but all overseas callers always get the message “the number you are calling does not exist” … is there anything wrong with my number ?


  40. Sending SMS (in English) from U.S. to China:

    I can use a U.S. carrier (Verizon and T-Mobile both work) to send an SMS from the U.S. to a Quanqiutong phone, but not to a Shenzhouxing phone.

    Sending SMS (in Chinese) from U.S. to China:

    For some reason, U.S. SIM cards will not receive or transmit SMS in Chinese. However, a Quanqiutong SIM card in the U.S. will allow you to receive and transmit SMS in Chinese!

  41. i would like to import mobile phones from china to uk, into my business. i would like to know where i would find the best person to sort me out

    thank you

  42. I have buy in Zhaoqing – GuangDong province a quanqiutong card with a regolary contract. The option is 1688 tariff. I have ask the roaming in Italy. The price is 200 yuan, but now i am in italy and the card not have the line phone. I do not nown the chinese language and not have notice if my card is good or now. Before I return in Italy i have make a phone and a message and it is all ok. Now all is silence!

    It is necessary for me to return in China for to use this card, or there is the another modality for active the roaming.

    Xie xie


  43. Dear Jian Shuo,

    I am thinking about buying a prepaid sim card. Are there any sim cards that give you internet access for a low rate that is not pay-per-use, but pretty much like a sim card(monthy payment)? I need it because i need to use the internet on the move.

    Thanks in advance,


  44. Hi sir,

    I am developing a web application and i want my web application to send MMS to the user about new feature of our site. I request you to guide me for getting some usefull information or documentation for sending MMS to chinese user.

    thank you spending ur time

  45. Hi, i have a M-ZONE sim card, apparently there must be something wrong with it as i’ve already recharged it twice in three weeks, despite not having called a lot but mainly receiving calls..does anyone know if with this kind of card entry calls are charged too?It’s quite strange as everyone else i know here in China put 30 yuan and can call for a month or even longer!What’s the problem?

    I will go to the seller and ask..any idea or suggestion?:-)

  46. why the sim information and services are all chinese? its china unicom gsm. and i always received a lot of chinese messages that always deducted my balance. and can you please tell me how to cancel all that and to make my sim card services into english. what is the number of balance inquiry in english. please im having a hard time for this situation so i do wait for your asap reply about this. i until now i dont have sleep just to search this matter in the internet. coz… this

    (10655133) send alot of messages and my balance lost. i just reload 100 rmb but now i cant make a overseas call. need your reply. asap!

    thanks for your consideration,

  47. Dear Jian Shuo,

    I am landing in Shanghai for work and would like to know the latest price plans and rates for a subscription based mobile phone, could you so kindly point me to the right sites or information? Is Quan Qiu Tong still the best plan if I use it locally for more than 250 minutes a month? I also make a lot of long distance calls to Hong Kong and North America.

    Thanks in advance for your insights!


  48. hi,, am sam ,,yet present i am in china using a cmcc sim card,,i will be leaving to united kingdom for a month ,during my time of visit i ll be getting important calls to my current cmcc number so i cant take a local uk sim card,,, so does cmcc have international roaming, and how should i spell it if i want to,should i say Quanqiutong or Shenzhouxing

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