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Getting a job in China: What to know

In one of the world’s fastest growing economies, never has there been a greater need for reliable, trustworthy, up to date and specified knowledge to allow expats to achieve their goals in the country. For a foreigner, getting a job in China has a gained a lot more hurdles over the years. Once, being an expat was a glorious package, now foreigners must compete against an increasing field of domestic talent. Nevertheless, it is certainly not difficult if you know what you’re looking for and what you will need. Our guide here explains some of the fundamental steps you should take if you want access to the Chinese job market. It’s time to pay attention if you want to succeed.

A changing society, a changing workforce

China is becoming one of the world’s most rapidly educated countries. Every year millions and millions of students progress from the “gaokao” high school examinations into University, with thousands of educational institutions spanning the towns, cities and provinces. Millions more head abroad to study in prestigious universities in Europe, North America and beyond. As a result of this monumental social change, China faces the challenge of accommodating millions of graduates into a job market which can barely keep up. An industrial economy with an increasingly educated, white collar population. The result is a growing rate of graduate unemployment. How have the government responded to this?

Chinese job seekers visit a job fair in southwest China’s Chongqing

Tougher visa requirements

As a result of this rapid social change, no longer is the possession of a University degree enough for a foreigner to merit a position in China on its own. Chinese visa rules no longer permit this. As a foreigner candidate for employment in China, the burden is now placed upon you to demonstrably prove that your skills and thus experiences, are worthy of exceeding that of locals to make your position necessary. This creates two requirements, that in applying for a job in China you come equipped with two years worth of formal work experience, or certification which exceeds the norm. For example, if you are applying for an English teaching position, if you possess a valid TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate, then you are eligible to obtain a working visa. If not, then you must prove that you have the valid experience.

Two years of Relevant work experience

Simply finding a suitable job in China is not enough. As well as the requirement to have two years of work experience since graduation, the work experience must be relevant to the responsibilities of your future job in China.

For example, if you have taught English for the last two years since graduation and wish to change to an area requiring a whole new skill set, you will likely come into difficulties because essentially your experience would still be that of a newcomer. You need to have demonstrable experience. The Chinese visa system takes this into account when vetting applications for work permits. Many companies in China are not aware of this rule (so you might want to inform them prior receiving a new offer).

If you are in a situation where your time since graduation, or your work experience, is not long enough, you will most likely have difficulty when it comes to your visa application. However, we have encountered some successful cases for foreign talents in certain industries, for people who are exceptional in some way.

No experience or necessary qualifications, then what do you do?

If you don’t meet any of the criteria above, then getting a legitimate job in China will be extremely challenging. But this does not mean your China dream is over. In this situation, you should start looking at long term internships available with given companies. There are plenty of advertisements to be found. Such companies will allow you to intern in China under a business/educational or cultural exchanges visa. Although they cannot offer you a salary, many of them will stipulate your living costs. These opportunities provide a good way to build guanxi networks for the future, as well as iron out chances for full time employment once you fit the requirement. For the newly graduated student who cannot get an official graduate position, we recommend this; unless of course, you choose to go down the teaching English route.

Conclusions: Plan ahead for China employment

If you do not know anything about the job market and workforce of the country you aspire to live in, then you probably won’t get very far. Never has this been more the case with China. It is a country that is growing, adapting and ever changing to an equally rapid shift in needs. It is a world of opportunity, but only for those who are ready and equipped to benefit from it. Getting a job in China is becoming more challenging. A more competitive job market now means that the position of “expats”, once very easily obtained, is being weakened. You need to be qualified and you need to be experienced. Plan your China dream out well.

China’s Top 10 Second Tier City

Although Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are the most famous cities in China many would make the argument they are not the best to live or travel within. A second-tier city in China is pure speculation as the government has not released any official guidelines to a classification system.

Below is our list of the top 10 best second tier cities to spend time in.

10. Xi’an

Xi’an is most famous for its Terracotta Warriors, which have become an international symbol of China’s history. The capital city of 13 different Chinese dynasties, Xi’an has a long and storied history. Many dynasties from about 3,000 to 1,000 years ago had their capital city here, which is how it came to be called the fountainhead of civilization for China. Xi’an is home to a large muslim population whose culture and cuisine can be found in the Muslim Quarter. Outside of the city there are a few national parks to hike in and take in beautiful views of the Yangtze.

9. Chongqing

Formerly a part of the Sichuan region, Chongqing has a heavily Sichuan influenced cuisine with some claiming it has the hottest place to live or eat in China. During the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, Chongqing was the capital of China. The city has experienced growth due to its unique geographic position on the Yangtze river. Chongqing has a section named Old City for obvious reasons, that can offer a look into the history of the city. Much larger sections of the city are dedicated to industry as Chongqing continues to thrive economically.

8. Tianjin

From 1860 to 1903, the United Kingdom, the USA, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Italy, Belgium and other western nations compelled the Qing regime to cede eastern Tianjin to them, dividing it up between themselves. Today, Tianjin boasts the largest artificial harbor in northern China with 30 different sea routes leading to over 300 of the world’s ports, a magnet for international trade now more than ever. Distinguished from other cities by the Tianjin Eye and its streetscapes of colonial era buildings, a residue of its status as a Treaty Port after 1858, Tianjin has some of the most interesting architecture in China.

7. Shenyang

Shenyang is the capital of Liaoning Province known for its clean air and natural scenery. The city has centuries of history including being the location of Nu’erhachi’s imperial palace where he was laid to rest in one of the first two imperial tombs of the Qing Dynasty, Fuling Tomb. The imperial palace and the two tombs are all listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. It was in Shenyang that the Russian army was defeated by the Japanese in 1905. The city has developed since, like all Chinese cities, and the older architecture is now not so easily seen in this massive city. The city is home to Liaocai (??), and a large Korean and Mongolian population, who operate barbecue stands on the street corners of the city.

6. Ningbo

Ningbo is directly connected to Shanghai by the Hangzhou Bay Bridge which has bolstered an already booming economy which is unique in that state-owned corporations only make up less than 20% of the area’s GDP. The local GDP per capita is about three times the national average and Tianyi Square is a major shopping area that benefits from the higher amount of wealth. Ningbo’s tourist industry includes museums, a few historic sites downtown with temples, nature reserves, and preserved ancient towns in the countryside.

5. Wuhan

The city fell under siege by the Japanese during WWII and was liberated in 1949. With the opening of China, Wuhan was reopened in 1992 for the first time since the revolution. Today, Wuhan is one of China’s largest cities and remains an important center of commerce. While many visitors overlook Wuhan as just another city, beneath its industrial exterior a rewarding tapestry of history and cultural arts awaits. Filled with many ancient temples and even a sex museum there is years worth of exploring to do in Wuhan.

4. Hangzhou

It is one of the most important tourist cities in China as well as being the ‘tea capital’, famous for its natural beauty, historical and cultural heritage. Hangzhou and its West Lake (??; Xihú) have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276. The city’s population is estimated to have been as high as one million in those days, making it the largest city in the world at the time. Hangzhou has street markets for just about every good, ranging from electronics to silk to pet parrots.

3. Suzhou

Filled with canals, Suzhou is most known for its amazing museums and many historic temples. In addition to its reputation for history, Suzhou has grown into a major center of joint-venture high-tech manufacturing and currently boasts one of the hottest economies in the world. It is the world’s largest single producer of laptop computers. The Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) in the east, and the Suzhou New District (SND) in the west, are home to factories from numerous North American, European, East Asian, and Australian companies. Suzhou has both China’s culture and history as well as the explosive economic growth.

2. Nanjing

Often mentioned for historical reasons the Southern Capital has a lot more to offer than a reason to despise imperialism. Rumored to be the place of birth for Peking Duck, Huaiyang Cai combine salt and spice to make fresh ingredients explode with flavor. Compared to Beijing and Shanghai, Nanjing offers a much slower paced lifestyle. Filled with parks and little shops Nanjing has plenty to do on the weekends or a well-earned day off.

1. Chengdu

Chengdu is a city many expats call home for its place as an international business and travel hub. It is most famous for its cuisine, laid back lifestyle, and lower cost of living comparative to first tier cities. Chengdu is home to the high-tech zone a booming economic region for high tech firms in China to find tax incentives and lower cost of labor. Many of the Fortune 500 companies are also in Chengdu drawing international talent from all over the world. Chengdu has all of the luxuries of a first-tier city with a complex metro system, diverse choice of international restaurants, and surrounding scenery Chengdu has earned the number one spot on our list.


It was incredibly difficult to narrow down our list to ten so we felt we would mention a few worth visiting. Some we chose not to include because their glory days have past while others we felt still have room to grow.


Dalian is the largest port city in northern China and formerly the southern tip of the Trans-Siberian rail. The city is a peninsula surrounded by beaches and accented with Japanese and Russian architecture.


The city where your shoes could have very well been made in, Fuzhou hosts Nike and a Taiwanese firm that produces for both Adidas and Reebok. Directly across from Taipei, Fuzhou is famous for its ports, shipyards, and beaches.


Qingdao is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in China. The downtown area is filled with hotels along the beaches and docks. Previously, this area was occupied by Germans who left their mark on the city architecturally and with the most famous Chinese brewery Tsingtao.


Located next to the Fenhe River and surrounded by mountains, Taiyuan is supported by heavy industry and mining. In terms of culture and sightseeing it is most famous for the Twin Padogas and the carvings at Chongshan Temple.


Nicknamed the City of Springs because of the many artesian wells that pop up among the city, Jinan is best done as a day trip out of Beijing. Jinan is one of the oldest cities in China with “eggshell pottery” that dates back over a thousand years.


China’s northernmost city Harbin is best known for the annual ice festival, but has a lot more to offer. The city is filled with 20th century Russian architecture from when White Russians escaped from the Soviet Union. The glory days for Harbin seem to have passed as unemployment rates are high among an aging workforce.

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