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May 21, 2009



I couldn't agree more. I have had much the same experience--people looking for not just job advice, but jobs. I tell them the same thing--get over here and you'll find a job (faster). I posted twice about this in January.


and here:

Aimee Barnes

Thanks for the plug, David. Enjoyed this letter- will be forwarding it to a few of my friends who are "waiting" for that perfect job offer to roll in before they make a move to China.
On a related note, concerning the visa crackdowns, how might this affect people who take the plunge without a corporate sponsor? Is there any way to avoid a potential hassle at the gate?

Adam Daniel Mezei

Hi David,

Still clocks the point home in facsimile...thanks for the much-needed shot in the arm.

Compelling suggestions...I'm having that Yogi Berra "deja vu moment" all over again as I think back over the past three years here in Prague, replaying some of the same prescriptions I'd heard bandied about amongst expat circles, not to mention some of the same caveats I'd heard myself sharing with newcomers to the scene when visiting town.

T'would seem that the process of entering any new market as an outsider is the same, although on a much smaller scale in my part of the world (given the relative population disparities).

I suppose the big difference is that in the Middle Kingdom money is to be found. In the Czech Republic, there plainly is very little circulating, for the common folk at least -- or at least for those who honestly and entrepreneurially attempt to secure it.

Keep up the full court press,


First, I don't know why you have to have an F class (or Z) to come over here to do business. Most people just get whatever they assume will be the least difficult to actually get. So stopping the number of F visa's doesn't hurt anyone but Chinese businesses--especially if foreigners can get tourist visas.

Second, the visa laws are as random as the censorship, just makes no sense to me--why are "business people" more of a threat than random tourists?! If you can't get an F class and you really need to come over won't you just get a tourist class (L?) and do the same business things you would have done anyway? It's not like anyone checks what your status is once you cross the border. 30 days in China is 30 days in China.

Third, I'm guessing that most people that don't have a legal office here are on tourist visas (at least part of the time) anyway. I know people that get 3-4 F visa's and then are told "you have to get an L class visa before you can have another F class." So they work here as a "tourist" for 6 months or a year and then get the F again the next time.

In 6 months it'll all be back to "normal" anyway, right?


Couldn't agree with you more !
At the grand old age of 45, not even able to count to five in Chinese, I did just that - opting not for Beijing, Shanghai or Shenzhen, but for a niche location where there are very few resident foreigners. Phew !


I had worked in China previously on two short assignments.
The potential was clear, I had confidence in my own abilities. The trouble was, no one was going to create a job for me.
So I had to finance it myself !
Because even back in the heady days of 2003, my industry (I'm a reporter) wasn't prepared to refund even a bus fare to the airport.
It wanted fresh new reporting, but with no committment.
I even had one foreign editor tell me that she thought I was being very brave, but maybe I was crazy. "After all, setting up in Chongqing is a bit like being the Brighton Correspondent !"
When I heard that, I knew I was doing the right thing.


So, confidence in what you can do; organise support to make up for your weaknesses; make a committment (stick your hand in your own pocket) and hit the ground running - don't wait until someone offers you a bed with nice fluffy pillows.
The world of work is undergoing rapid change. Folk have to consider innovative ways to develop their career paths - and that also applies to creating revenue streams, while staying within the law, paying taxes and insurance etc.


One more point in this stream of consciousness: you don't have to follow the pack and set up by the seaboard. China's interior is a truly exciting place to be in the world right now. It's not for the faint hearted, it's far from being sophisticated - but heck, there are opportunities ....something which I understand is in short supply in certain other parts of the world.

Good Luck
and Best Regards

Morgan O'Hara

I’m an MBA student of Chris Carr’s at Cal Poly, and have had the great fortune of being introduced to your blog; I’m hooked, and this post struck a chord – actually figuring out what I would like to do with myself once I'm out of school next Winter is a daunting task. I have worked abroad, and am now learning Mandarin, wondering whether I should take the China plunge after graduation. Cal Poly’s trip this summer will be revealing, and this post pushed me a bit closer to the plank’s edge …


Aimee, I've gotta go with Silk Road David on this one. The key is understanding the system and the reasoning behind it, and then working your way through the hoops.

Simply coming over here on whatever visa you can get and doing a few casual interviews should not be a monstrous problem on a normal day. Unfortunately, we are fresh out of normal days until we work through our little anniversary thing over the next six months.

My advice would be to try to get a visa now, but if you can't, wait until late October and try again.


Silk Road David superb posts. Have no idea what mental lapse prevented me from putting your blog on my blogroll for this long, but it is there, with my apologies for a having taken so long to do it.


ADM, I know it is tough leaving anyplace where the beer is good, the air is fresh, and the music is great, but if I can surgically remove myself from my native California to live in the Middle Kingdom, trust me when I say you will find the "sacrifice" as worthwhile as I did.


Grubby - thank you for making the point (which I stupidly omitted) that this place is not so much for the young as the young-at-heart.


Morgan, what I'd do is as much recon as possible beforehand, but I wouldn't try to come out here between, say, December 1 and February 28. Chinese New Year falls on February 14, and for some reason the period between Christmas and about two weeks after Chinese New Year is not the greatest time to get hired. Show up AFTER Chinese New Year, on the other hand, and you are usually walking into the most rewarding hiring period of the year. I personally hired more people between Chinese New Year and June 1 - by a factor of four - than any other season.

Hope this helps.

Richard Ford

One thing that I think is over looked is the lack of real jobs for people who just come over here. I came over here to do University in 2002 after having traveled here extensively in 1999-2001 and having being bored back home post graduation.

While internships abound - the jobs didn't. Then I saw that all of the people that I was meeting with or chasing for jobs were entrepreneurs. So I copied and could not be more happy. More money, more freedom and more knowledge of China. And overall better than if I had stayed in the west or had been a salary man gripping to someone else's chain and not my own.

I still see refugees here (I call them hippies) and I occasionally cross them i n business. These people did come over here themselves - but they have this strange fetish for "Shoulds" and seem to like to compare or base everything off of their experiences or expectations in the west. They invariably always get into more trouble and fail with due to what are minor, though very "China" problems. The few that take my advice seem to follow the same course that I have as well as the many other real expats of China of the last 100 years.

One other point though. I feel that to make it in China you really have to have the ability to "Add Value" to what is being done. This is harder because of the competition with the lower waged market place and in respects the lower expectations of the local market. If you career/job/value proposition is wrapped around just being a middle man or taking a bit for every transaction done or simply moving blocks about - your life expectancy will be lower. Either because someone will copy you and do it for less, or people will wake up and ask the question "Just what do you do differently than local Johnny Wang of here for 1/3 the price?"

I have noticed many people have left China recently and it has made my business grow. The weaker or "Speculating" foreigners that fell into the above category and could not add justifiable "Value" seem to have left as their shaky value propositions evaporated and it has lead to a surge in migrating clients and a new found respect as a "Foreign Expert" that I have not since in years since the great dilution of the gene pool here from 2004-2008.



I am also an MBA student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA and will be visiting China along with Morgan (see post above) this upcoming summer. Unfortunately our trip will not bring us to China until after the "peak hiring season", we are scheduled to be there in late June. In reference to your response to Morgan about doing as much recon as possible, would you recommend depth over breadth? Will more of a deep understanding of a particular company/industry serve a job hunter better or rather research on a broad range of companies/industries?

Thank you, and like Morgan, I have added your blog to a short list I will stay current with.


THe other strong route to finding a job in China is to come across and spend some time learning Chinese. It will certainly help with job applications, impress those who interview you and provides a good landing pad for you to become familiar with the environment if you can speak, read and write Chinese. Learning Chinese here is relatively cheap (USD800-1200 a semester fees if you apply directly to a Chinese University) secures you a student visa (which you can't work on) and clearly demonstrates your commitment to a successful career here. Chinese Universities are very keen to recruit foreign students and there are many good Chinese language programs on offer. Personally I'd recommend studying in a second or third tier city such as Hangzhou or Kunming (where I spent 2 very happy years learning Chinese). Costs are low, life is good, there is plenty of informal work often paying as much as the big cities and you can focus on your studies. Once you have a reasonable level of Chinese then you can opt for the bigger cities where permanant jobs are easy to get.

Richard Ford

@Eric, I would take Chris' advice. It is what I did and everyone else I know who is successfull here. And not a fly by night posted job worker for 2 years or a subsistence western refugee.

It is the only real option open to you. While we all make fun of graduates that seek MBA (Minimal Brain Activity) degrees from the states (Big culture change compared to Aus/UK) - as a fresh grad, full of theory and not practical experience, you are not going to find many opportunities.

The work that you would be cut out for is easily done - or done better by locals - who speak English and Chinese (as opposed to just your English) and have often also graduated from top schools around the world. And most of them also have PHD's too! We had applicants for basic IT jobs that had PHd's in chemical engineering and geology! The jobs here are scarce at the moment.

The number of expats (locally engaged type) that left late last year in a mass exodus was amazing. Pubs that I would go to normally on a Saturday night to watch the footy and murder a few beers, that were once packed, now commanded 10-15 patrons. You could hear a pin drop.

You will see very few expats here with real jobs under the age of about 32-35. A friend of mine who is an engineer and came here when he was 24 in 2000 to help setup factories for his company was quite startled by this.

I too noticed it as I proceeded to leave my grad days behind me and enter the business world after graduating from University here. It became more and more obvious that as a then 27 year old, I was in a pool full of 35-40+ year olds.

I don't mean to be a sour puss on this - but I am quite sure that you do not have accurate expectations of China. Real salary jobs that pay 70-80-100+ thousand RMB per month are not that common for "Locally Engaged" staff.

You really only have two options as I see it as a locally engaged staff - coming here to get work as opposed to being sent here. Start your own business, or end up in a dodgy job, with pay lucky to exceed 10 or if extremely lucky 20K RMB a month (which sucks BTW) and you will also suffer from professional atrophy as you are more than likely to be surrounded by people that are not able to mentor or help you grow.

There are always exceptions to the rules. I just think that you and Morgan need a reality check. People leave places like China to come to the west for a better life and pay. You want to do the reverse.... and as fresh meat graduates you will be disappointed I fear.

A stack of degrees won't get you a job here, nor help you really succeed. What will, is a tough skin, good command of the language, an ability to play the game in the grey area's and a sort of seasoned approach that doesn't shriek "fresh meat" from a mile away - ripe for being taken advantahe of.

Also understanding that life (or business) isn't fair will help a long way to in beating down your western expectations and belief systems.

It really is dog eat dog here. I like that. But coming from your artificial bubble of the west + higher education + shrink wrapped commodities, you will be in for a shock.

Take the Chinese study route for sure. It helps in so many ways.


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