I was crossing the border to Shenzhen from Hong Kong at Huanggang the other day, and was standing behind the customs area, waiting for friends. A foreigner was walking through the customs carrying with him a box, the package of which suggests that it contained an ipad. He was stopped by the customs officers and it was obvious that he ran into trouble by carrying the gadget with him. He seemed to be arguing with the officers and gradually lost temper. No doubt he was requested to give tax on his ipad.
I later read reports that people carrying iphones 4 or ipads into China will be taxed RMB 1,000 (value estimated to be RMB 5,000 so 20% tax is RMB 1,000 ). Any items, valued over RMB 5,000, even if they are for self-use, have to be taxed, according to the reports. If you don’t want to be taxed, you can place the items with the customs and take them back when you leave China. But then you may need to pay a custody fee as well.
The latest news is that Chinese Customs has publicly defened its practice, saying that a tax of RMB 1000 on ipads is justified, which is in accordance with WTO rules and international practice. So be prepared to be taxed if you an ipad or a new iphone into China.