Thursday, August 13, 2009

No, You Can't Just Show Up In China And Be Handed A Lucrative Job

Sherman Oaks, California

I've been emailing with friends in China and trolling the expat boards, and the consensus is clear: Monday's New York Times article about how easy it is for U.S. postgrads to land a job and a luxe lifestyle in China is a crock.

Some observations (mine and others'):

-- The article is entirely anecdotal. There's no stats to back it up.

-- The reporter does not mention visas. As frequent China travellers know, visas are political footballs, and, at various times for various reasons (usually unannounced), the Foreign Ministry stops issuing or renewing visas or alters the requirements.

-- The reporter also fails to mention the word hukou, which is a residence document. To Chinese citizens, the hukou system can be a burden which segregates rural and urban dwellers. (The state-run China Daily, of all unlikely sources, profiles the system here.) Although most foreigners don't notice (because of the way the paperwork is handled), visitors to the People's Republic fall within the hukou system. (Prof. Fei-Ling Wang wrote a book on the topic, and foreigners are mentioned starting at Page 71).

-- So, no, you can't just hop on a plane, hit the streets of Shanghai with a resume, and land a vice president's job.

-- The article refers to two people who allegedly became "proficient" in Mandarin in two years. That's hard to believe.

-- The Times is playing to the arrogance of its younger readers. Recent graduates of top colleges think they have a lot to offer, and the article indulges in the fantasy by saying, "There's this cool place where they'll pay you a lot just for being you."

-- I didn't want to hear it when I was 22, but the reality is that 22-year-olds don't know a damn thing. They don't have meaningful work experience, they don't have useful contacts, they don't have transferable skills. Michael Barone wrote a whole book on why the United States produces such useless 18-year-olds and such productive 30-year-olds, and one reason is that seasoning in the workplace makes a world of difference.

-- Others on the article: China Law Blog (excellent comments). China Hearsay. Waiguoren. The Beijinger. Beijing Boyce (ignores the story; was probably focusing on beer and pizza review).

Pictured: New grads will learn the difference between reading about China's smog and experiencing it. Doesn't seem as much fun now, does it, Breck? Please go back to Widener Library and find another city to ruin. Thank you.

Note: A special Knife Tricks welcome to James Fallows readers.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Tom Salemi said...

-- I didn't want to hear it when I was 22, but the reality is that 22-year-olds don't know a damn thing.


11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn reality check...
I hope Eastern China Air will refund my ticket...

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post is true. Except - I've never heard of foreigners having problems in China because of the hukou system

There's an informative rebuttal to the NYT piece on the Forbes website:

5:30 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home