When you come to China, if it is your first visit then I would recommend that you do not even consider attempting to drive! It is far safer to use public transport (which is very good, reliable and cheap) or take a taxi. It is even possible to hire cars and drivers for a very reasonable daily rate. My only advice on the taxi and private hire, as per the statement in the Welcome message, is to make sure that you are using a properly registered (so therefore insured) service.
However, people who are in China for longer begin to get the urge for freedom and wish to be able to get themselves around as opposed to relying on other people. My advice to you is DO NOT drive without license and insurance as used to be a common situation with foreigners in China. The levels of traffic here are increasing at a tremendous rate, whilst the level of competence of the Chinese driver is falling at a correspondingly alarming rate! Having traveled extensively around the world I have to say that I rate the average Chinese driver as amongst the worst in the world! The authorities are also (and quite rightly so) not as lenient now with foreigners driving without a license (and also therefore insurance).
The Chinese highway code is extensive and if you read it, and if it was followed, it would put the Chinese driver at an extremely high level. Unfortunately I have to say that I believe that the majority of Chinese drivers haven’t even seen this set of rules, let alone follow them! Chinese drivers are extremely aggressive in their driving style and care little (ie not at all, if they even realise they are there!) for those people and vehicles around them and generally completely ignore the rules of the road. Until the Chinese authorities introduce a Traffic Department as part of the police force, and start to clamp down on drivers breaking the rules by hitting them where it hurts (in the pocket), then I only see the situation deteriorating as the level as traffic increases.
Whilst it is possible in the major cities (apparently) to exchange an international driving license for a short term visit license, if you want a long term license then you will be required to qualify for the Chinese license. If you hold a full license then you only have to undergo the theoretical examination, which basically involves answering 100 questions for a bank of 900 questions, and obtaining a pass score of 90%. If you do not hold a full license from you home country then you will also need to undergo the practical examination (ie driving!) which you would do 30 days after passing the theoretical exam. A physical examination is also required.
Before you can take any part of the test, the driving license held (if any) and passport have to be translated and notorised, and presented along with the original of your residence permit (temporary or permanent).
Insurance in China works differently to the way you are probably used to, in that the insurance is worked out on the motor vehicle and not the individual. A 50 year old man would pay the same insurance as a 20 year old if they were climbing into the same vehicle. The rate can change on renewal, a discount being offered for “no claims” whilst a premium is added for the driver who has been involved in accidents or accrued penalty points. The cover is standard “fully comprehensive” although a premium can be paid to lift the level of cover for 3rd party liability.
Be aware though that many drivers (so I am informed) driving in China do so with no insurance.
If I have not put you off and you DO wish to take your test in China, the questions (in ENGLISH!) that can be found in the Chinese Driving Test Theoretical Examination Question Bank for 2015 onwards can be found by clicking on the link below. Please note, I have nothing to do with these links and cannot be held responsible for out of date question banks. Please by all means contact me to advise if they are old or not working, but for all other issues please contact the relevant site webmaster.
Driving test question bank
Your first driving license will be valid for 6 years. It is worth noting that should you fail to renew it before the license has expired you will be required to retake the test, so wise to ensure you are starting the renewal process about 3 months prior to the expire date. The next license issued will be valid for 10 years. One major point to remember is that if you look on your driving license you will see a number that is actually the passport number that you were using when you took the test and you MUST present this document when renewing your driving license