Shanghai still the favorite city for expats

Updated: 2013-11-06 11:29

By He Dan (

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Shanghai topped the list as foreigners' favorite city in the Chinese mainland in 2013, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

Shanghai excelled over 29 candidate cities with the highest recognition in terms of working and living environment, expat-friendly policy and administrative capacity.

The survey was jointly published on Wednesday by the Beijing magazine International Talent Monthly and the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel.

Some 72,000 expats and English speakers participated in the annual survey via an in-person questionnaire or by voting on China Daily's website.

The survey, called “Amazing China - The Most Attractive Chinese Cities for Foreigners”, was launched in 2010 to find out which Chinese cities are the most attractive to foreigners.

This year, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Qingdao ranked as the top 10 cities.

Survey participant Philipp Khaytovich, a scientist from the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, dubbed Shanghai as “the most international and foreigner-friendly city in China at the moment”.

Although Shanghai and Beijing scored the highest overall, these two big cities scored the lowest for the quality of their environment.

Beijing was engulfed by severe smog for weeks in early 2013, with leading pollutants including vehicle emissions, coal burning in neighboring regions, and construction dust. The serious air pollution raised public awareness and prompted the government to adopt emergency measures.

Jon Michael Davis, President and CEO of the National Institute of Clean-And-Low-Carbon Energy, said he chose Beijing as his favorite city in China for its robust business and culture. He urged the Chinese government to take measures to tackle pollution.

All of the top 10 cities are situated in eastern China, where the country is economically more developed, which reflects China's regional disparity in attracting foreign talents.

In the previous two surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012, the situation was the same.

William Brown, who started teaching in Xiamen University in the late 1980s and received China's “green card” in 1992, said, “Some (Chinese) cities are simply too remote for many foreigners, though the western development programs are rapidly giving inland provinces easy access to the rest of China and the rest of the world.”

Another eight cities - Fuzhou, Jinan, Changchun, Changsha, Chongqing, Chengdu, Dalian and Harbin - were recognized as cities with high potential to be the most attractive Chinese cities in the future, based on the survey results.

Some 550,000 foreign experts were working on the Chinese mainland in 2012, according to statistics from the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs.

Respondents who answered the in-person questionnaire, said obstacles in terms of children's education, medical care and visa policies make it difficult for them to work in China for the long term.

Some respondents also said they would like to see more expat-friendly policies in place to help them better integrate into Chinese society, such as pension programs and housing benefits for foreign talents.

“There is no retirement plan or obligatory medical care for foreigners paid by their employers. There are no housing benefits, such as low-interest housing loans, available to foreigners,” said Khaytovich from the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences.

He suggested China should allow foreigners working in China for more than three years to enjoy the same social and economic benefits as local residents.

“The easiest way would be to make the hukou system open to long-term foreign residents based on their education and work value,” he said.