I had the opportunity to spend eight of the last ten weeks in China on business (two trips, four weeks each). While there I attended the Shanghai Pudong Branch in the Shanghai China International District. And my last Sunday I was able to attend a district conference of the Shanghai China International District, as well.
The Chinese government allows for religious freedom, but places some restrictions on the church there. Like other denominations, expatriate branches of the church are open only to holders of foreign (non-Peoples Republic of China) passports, or the spouses of holders of such passports. Church members are not to disseminate church literature to Chinese nationals, nor are they to proselyte in any way. In the branch I attended, an announcement in the bulletin and also from the stand at the beginning of sacrament meeting made this policy clear.
Non-LDS friends in China also indicated that their experience is the same at their churches. (They attend different denominations in different languages: English, German, Spanish and Mandarin (Taiwanese).)
I'm impressed (but not surprised) that the church is so cautious. Until sometime last year, the church was recognized by the national government, but not by the local Shanghai government, so they could not rent a public space for meetings. With the official recognition in Shanghai, the church can now rent a beautiful conference center for Sunday services of the two Shanghai branches. There were two other branches represented at the district conference: Nanjing and Suzhou. I didn't count noses, but I'd estimate we had over 500 people there for the Sunday session of conference.
One of the things I noticed early on in my visits to the Pudong Branch was the absence of full time missionaries. When we lived in Taiwan, we met in a stake center next to the temple, and shared our building with five wards, and there were full time missionaries in the building throughout the day on Sunday. Not having missionaries in regular church meetings was strange to me. (The last time I attended a ward without missionaries was in Provo while I was at BYU.)
Of course, lessons and topics are common, though the population of these branches is more diverse than my suburban ward in Southeast Michigan. In the branch I attended, over the course of my visit I heard speakers from the US, Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Italy. Many (including Americans) have been in China for years. A young man of Korean birth spoke in district conference. He said his family had been in China for ten years which meant he's probably attended all his schooling in China. And others were from close to home. I sat next to someone from my home stake in Michigan during conference.
It's a rich blessing for the saints to be able to meet wherever they find themselves. I know I was glad to have the Pudong Branch to call my own for the weeks I was in Shanghai.
UPDATE: Because this particular post generates a lot of traffic, I'm adding a link to my more recent post on the Church's website on the Church in China. You can read the post here.