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The Expat Job Market 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.
Beijing's central business district (CBD) makes for an impressive cityscape.

Foreign Employees in China

A considerable number of expats in Beijing are diplomatic staff and foreign correspondents employed by the many embassies and international press offices all over the city. Other expatriates are sent to the capital on traditional company assignments at their local branch. Both Chinese and international companies often have a representative working in Beijing, no matter where else in China their HQ or production plants may be. Thus, they stay in close contact with government bureaucracy in the capital.

However, foreign assignments are now receiving competition from so-called “flexpats”. Foreign employees are often hired for short-term assignments and fly in and out, rather than relocating their entire lives and families to China for the long-term; they are also known as “China hires” or “frequent flyer assignments”. If you are not likely to be sent on a flexpatriate or expatriate assignment any time soon, here are a few tips to help you with job hunting in Beijing.

Visas, Work Permits, and Employment Prospects

Getting a visa plus work permit for China (so-called Z visa, from the Chinese word zhíyuán for 'employee') is subject to having an official invitation to the country. For the visa, you need an employment license from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Labor and Social Security. For teaching positions, though, you should apply for official status as a foreign expert with the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA).

The employment license, in turn, is dependent on having a job offer from a China-based company that is officially permitted to employ foreigners: a multi-national branch office, a foreign-invested enterprise, or a local Chinese company. The latter is rather unlikely, though, unless you have exceptional Mandarin skills.

Due to the present development of the Beijing economy, candidates with hard skills and professional experience have certain advantages. These industries include engineering, medical technology, environmental tech, the chemical sector, pharmaceuticals, ICT, R&D, intellectual property law, international patent affairs, and finance.  Management consulting and project management skills are, of course, highly demanded as well.

Whether you actually need to speak Mandarin at work or whether English will do depends on the individual company and job description. Since an ever increasing number of extremely well-qualified Chinese university graduates are also fluent in English, a basic, or better yet, solid knowledge of business Mandarin can only improve your chances.

Of course, there is more to doing business in China! Learn all about business etiquette and how to conduct yourself during meetings from our Extended Guide article.

Getting a Job

Jobs in Beijing are advertised on such commercial websites as ChinaHR (website in Chinese), the Chinese equivalent of Monster, or ChinaJob, which categorizes jobs as either educational or professional. Moreover, you should check the China website of your country’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Quite a few of those homepages include job markets specifically tailored to foreigners of a certain nationality interested in working in China.

Last but not least, you should prepare to apply a long-term strategic approach to job hunting in Beijing. Guānxì (i.e. contacts, connections, relations) are an important part of doing business in China. You should thus try to build yourself a personal network of people in the Beijing area who might help you find a suitable job. Online communities, a fact-finding trip to China, a business visit, a language holiday, etc. might be good ways of establishing such a network.

Take a look at our Extended Guide for advice on how to find a job in China, to find out more about business networking, the online job search, and more.


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."

Global Expat Guide