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There are increasing opportunities to work or study in China. Many foreign workers are employed as English-language teachers, and most universities and man private colleges now have a few foreign teachers.

It’s worth noting that except in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau, foreigners are technically allowed to reside only in certain areas. Housing rents in these districts are expensive, usually at least US$2000 a month. Increasingly, many foreigners live with locals and in Chinese neighborhoods, though it’s not strictly legal. Officially, you’re the guest of the landlord, and it can be worth registering with the PSB as such.

Useful organizations and, resources

  • Chinatefl www.china-tefl.com Gives a good overview of English-teaching opportunities in the Chinese public sector.
  • Council on International Educational Exchange www.ciee.org . Exchange programmers for US students of Mandarin or Chinese studies, with placements in Beijing, Nanjing or Shanghai .
  • Earthwatch: www.earthwatch.org An organization which runs environmental projects overseas; volunteers who wish to participate need to contribute funds to the project – a ten-day project in China, for example, requires about F1000-as well as pay for their own flights and transport to the site.
  • VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) UK Tel:020/8780 7200 (www.vso.org.uk). Highly respected charity that sends qualified professionals out to developing countries – China among them – to work on projects. Remuneration is paid at local rates.
  • Worldteach www.worldteach.org. US-based organization enabling individuals to work as volunteer teachers in China and other developing countries,
  • Zhaopin www.zhaopin.com. A huge jobs site, in Chinese and English

The education sector

There are schemes in operation to place for­eign teachers in Chinese educational insti­tutions – contact your nearest Chinese embassy for details, or check the list of organizations given above. Some employers ask for a TEF qualification, though a degree, or simply the ability to speak the language as a native, is usually enough.

Teaching at a university, you’ll earn about Y1500 a month, more than a Chinese work­er earns, but not enough to allow you to put any aside. The pay is bolstered by on-cam­pus accommodation – a room in a foreign­ers’ dormitory, usually without a phone. Contracts are generally for one year. Foreign university teachers have a workload of between ten and twenty hours a week – a lot more than their Chinese counterparts have to do. Most teachers find their stu­dents keen, hard-working, curious and obe­dient, and report that it was the contact with them that made the experience worthwhile. That said, avoid talking about religion or pol­itics in the classroom as this can get you into trouble. You’ll earn more – up to Y150 per hour – in a private school in Beijing or Shanghai, though be aware of the risk of being ripped off by a commercial agency. For teaching vacancies, look in the expat magazines or on websites such as www.chinatefl.com, or approach the uni­versities directly.

Universities welcome Western students for the extra revenue they bring. Courses cost about US$3500 a year, or US$1 000 a semester. Accommodation costs around US$10 a day. Most courses are in the Chinese language, but it’s possible to study just about anything. Be aware, however, that if you want to study acupuncture, martial arts or Chinese medicine, courses run In the West are often better. Write to the embassy for a list of universities, then contact the col­leges themselves, but it’s best not to sign up for a course until you’ve visited the campus and be wary of paying up front, as you won’t get a refund.

Commercial & opportunities

There are plenty of other white-collar jobs available for foreigners in mainland China, mostly foreign firms, though some facility C­hinese is usually required; it’s best to turn up in Beijing and Shanghai and trawl around offices or through expat magazines, market in Hong Kong is tighter, and t skills are usually required if you’re going to land employment there; for more information, check the Rough Guide to Hong Kong and Macau.

China’s opening, vast markets and recent WTO membership present a wealth of business opportunities, usually in joint-venture operations where the Chinese have a con­trolling interest. However, anyone wanting to do business in China is advised to do some thorough research. The difficulties are formi­dable – red tape and corrupt and shady business practices abound. Remember that the Chinese do business on the basis of mutual trust and personal connection and pay much less attention to contractual terms or legislation. Copyright and trademark laws are often ignored. You’ll need to cultivate the virtues of patience and bloody mindedness, and develop your guanxi – connections – assiduously