Just spoke with the BoC regarding wire transfers and such.
RMB is not a settlement currency so you cannot wire it directly. Instead, whatever currency you wire will sit in your BoC account, in that currency. Then you must go to the bank with your passport to convert it. USD$50,000 conversion limit applies per year.
The good news is that the conversion rate that applies is basically the market spot-rate. Listed here as “Buying Rate”: this is substantially better than the whopping 3% fee (due to currency spread) you pay at the “Cash Buying Rate” (i.e. over the counter in a money exchange).
There is no fee to receive the money (unlike HSBC in Australia), nor any direct fees on the currency transfer.
BoC hotline is 95566. The lady I spoke to had excellent english, and knew exactly what she was talking about. That’s more than I can say about a lot of operators for Australian banks.
Going the *other* way is more problematic. You cannot transfer RMB out directly (same reason you cannot transfer it in directly). And changing the RMB back to a settlement currency requires you to prove the source of the funds, apparently involving a visit to a government branch (read: PITA). More info on that is apparently here. Then if you do change it back from RMB, you can transfer it out again, for a fee. If you were not physically in China, I don’t know how any of this would be possible.
Net result: I think I’ll just transfer in only what I plan to spend.
From my memory filling out the customs entry forms, limits also apply to the amount of RMB notes you can take in and out of the country. Something like ¥6,000. So that limits you from taking the RMB notes out of the country and converting it elsewhere (unless you are a fan of stuffing money down your underpants).