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Working in Beijing

Expats working in Beijing have become a rather common phenomenon over the past two decades. No wonder! Many foreign nationals are seizing the opportunity as international companies flock to China to tap into this huge market. We tell you what to expect when working in Beijing.
Chaoyong is home to Beijing's central business district (CBD) and many foreign embassies.

Taking up employment in Beijing means working in China’s major post-industrial city. Nowadays, less than a third of the labor force working in Beijing is employed in industry, let alone agriculture. Over 73% of Beijing’s considerable annual GDP (gross domestic product) comes from work in the tertiary sector. The industrial activity in China’s capital is mainly limited to Beijing’s future growth industries.

Scientific and Technological Research and Development

The Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area (BDA) is located in suburban Yizhuang. It attracts enterprises from the fields of materials engineering, mechanical and electronic products, and pharmaceuticals, such as the global healthcare corporation Sanofi-Aventis.

A lot of IT whizzes work in Beijing’s “Silicon Valley”, i.e. in Zhōngguāncūn Science Park in the university district of Heidian. If you are interested in working in Beijing’s branch of a high-tech or ICT company such as Google, Intel, or Microsoft, you are likely to end up in a Zhōngguāncūn office, too.

Officially founded in 1988 – though it existed unofficially as “Electronics Avenue” beforehand – and administrated by the Beijing Municipal Government, Zhōngguāncūn Science Park is the biggest and most successful of China’s around 100 science parks, of which 52 are national, i.e. recognized by the central government. It is not only interesting for people from the IT industry, but also for anyone focusing on intellectual property rights, venture capital, and start-up businesses.

An increasing number of highly qualified employees working in Beijing’s “Silicon Valley”, especially in the area of research and development, are supposed to boost China’s competitiveness in patent affairs. Despite the many scientists in China’s university cities, only an annual 10-11 successful patent applications were filed per 10,000 Chinese researchers in 2000. This was a low outcome in comparison with countries like Germany, Japan, and the US.

However, since 2006, successful international patent applications from Chinese patent holders have been soaring in all areas of science, technology, and industry. This shows that the efforts of researchers working in Beijing and other science parks are bearing fruit. In 2011, Chinese R&D funding surpassed Japan’s; in 2018, it is expected to spend more on R&D than Europe; and, in 2022, more than the USA. Patent applications have tripled in the last five years, and a greater proportion of world scientific literature is originating in China.

All of these advances, combined with consistent growth and the expansion of infrastructure seem to indicate that China really has arrived on the world stage of innovation, and people working in Beijing are at the forefront.

City of Finance

The combination of growing scientific and technological innovation and the financial importance of the capital create a good atmosphere for Chinese entrepreneurship and foreign investment. Finance is one of the most important employers for everyone working in Beijing’s tertiary sector. Real estate, though, has lost some of its former significance since the biggest construction boom seems to be over for now. In fact, in 2014, the real estate industry in China has been undergoing a slump and correction of prices: From May to June alone, prices dropped 0.5% across the market. In Beijing, the volume of new home purchases has dropped from the same time last year by almost 50%.

Although the Chinese stock exchange is located in Shanghai and Shenzhen rather than Beijing, Beijing Financial Street is nonetheless referred to as China’s “Wall Street”. It hosts the nation’s three most important regulatory and supervisory institutions, the biggest Chinese commercial banks, as well as hundreds of domestic and foreign financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. No wonder that the city is home to 52 Fortune Global 500 companies, which employ a great number of people working in Beijing.

Employment in Beijing

Foreigners working in Beijing, whether for a Chinese company or any of the global companies in the city, need to prove they are foreign experts. With this system, China is attempting to attract the most qualified foreign talent and expats from all around the world to contribute to its development and international presence.

Many a global company doing business in China has found a new home in Beijing, which is good for expats seeking employment, but the bureaucracy is still there. So, those who have found a job or are looking to work in Beijing must still get a visa and work permit for China. See the next page for details on getting a visa and permit for working in Beijing.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ole Jacobsen

"Beijing has so much to offer for expats. InterNations helped me explore the international community and many close friends."

Farrah Thompson

"At one of the InterNations events here in Beijing I eventually met my French boyfriend, who is an expat just like me."

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