Walking down the street in major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai, you might get the feeling that you don’t know where you are – foreigners of every nationality can be seen virtually in any part of the city. One of the trends now is that Beijing is becoming the new New York, and that is exactly because most of the people here are from somewhere else.
Whether it’s the United States or Columbia, Vietnam or Italy, or, on the other hand, even Fujian Province or Inner Mongolia, most Beijing residents nowadays have an interesting story to tell about how they ended up living here. Most of these people work or study here, in an environment where they can not only learn about China, and the many different cultures embedded in this country of 56 ethnic groups, but also about people from all over the world. Guaranteed! You will meet a lot of different people.
By 2007, there were over 2.9 million foreigners registered with the Ministry of Public Security as working legally in China. Four years later, this number is still significantly increasing. According to People’s Daily, foreigners’ jobs are usually in accordance with directions of foreign investments. This means that foreigners play a significant part in China’s foreign investment, and import foreign advanced management and techniques.
China – a hot destination for living and working
During the recent economic recession, China became a popular destination for many who were unable of finding work in their own countries – this in particular, attracted most people from the US and Europe, where the crisis hit the hardest. According to China Today, a monthly magazine founded in 1949, most foreigners found that China remains a good place to live and work. The monthly income of certain high-ranking managerial personnel in some transnational companies is as high as US$ 100,000, reports the magazine. If we think about this, it’s really a considerable amount of money, especially if you are living in China where prices are still far cheaper than in many Western countries. If $100,000 a year is a good salary in the US, then imagine the life you can live on that money in China.
Foreigners in China work in a many different fields, varying from IT to journalism, communication, education, and even in the oil sector, as well as in Airlines services, among several other sectors. Air China recently hired a number of Japanese stewardesses to work on flights from China to Japan and vice versa. This caused quite a stir, but they gave a very reasonable argument- with the amount of passengers traveling from China to Japan and the other way daily, and especially since many of the passengers are not able to speak Chinese or English, it’s a good idea for Air China to hire Japanese stewardesses to make flights more enjoyable for Japanese passengers, which, in turn, creates a better image for their brand abroad.
This goes not only for big airline companies, but for many companies in China, especially the ones that are expanding and working more with countries all over the world. The more companies are working with the outside world, and the more China is practicing gaigekaifang (the policy of opening up), the more they will actually be opening up, and inviting more foreign professionals to help them with that.
In 2001, the China International Talents Market was established by the China Association for the International Exchange of Talents. This is the first entity of its kind in China, which shows again how foreigners are playing an increasingly important role in the Chinese job market.
If we think about it, foreign professionals can really bring a new point of view to China, and broaden horizons for many companies that want to, or are already expanding into the international market.
Apart from economic reasons as to why so many young expatriates are coming to China to start off their career, there is also, of course, the new experience that many foreigners gain while in China. New contacts are built as friends from everywhere in the world meet. It is also full-scales interaction with Chinese culture that appeals to many who come here. Many expats in their twenties start off here as students and English teachers, but then seeing the many opportunities that lay ahead, they begin rethinking about working in different sectors such as finance, IT, media and so on.
Perhaps another reason is that having the whole “working in China experience” is a good one for foreigners not only in terms of money and self satisfaction, but it will remain a lasting benefit to individuals’ professional experience.
Working in an economy that is constantly growing and changing, and over the past several months has become the second economy in the world, can give foreigners an experience that they might use in their careers for years to come. This is not only in relation to the obvious usefulness of knowing the Chinese language (which is spoken by a quarter of the world’s population), but also the entire experience of working in this culture, is an excellent experience for any young professional.
I think for these reasons the number of foreigners coming to China will continue to increase, and perhaps in the future we will see it becoming an even more popular destination.