I just wanted to warn others about my experience recently.
I booked a Beijing tour, and although I have less than six months on my ARC, my travel agent told me that I could just pay a little more money for a Chinese visa. After I paid for the package, the travel agent then told me that because my ARC is BLUE and has less than 6 months before it expires I cannot get a Chinese visa after all.
Apparently one can only do the 'pay extra' option if your ARC is the older green type.
Does anyone know why the colour of your ARC is important? Or why having less than 6 months on your ARC matters anyway?