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Expat Salaries in China 2011-12

The following table shows typical expat salaries in China, for a variety of jobs and roles. Note that these figures are based on employment statistics from major Chinese cities – if you work in a more rural area, you should expect to earn less than what is quoted below. 


Table of Expat Salaries in China (2011 to 2012)



Job/Position/Years Experience

Annual Salary (USD)

Annual Salary (RMB)

Accounting/Finance Chief Financial Officer / 15+ Years 240K 1.5M
Accounting/Finance Finance or Accounting Manager / 8+ Years 48K 300K
Accounting/Finance Financial Analyst / 7+ Years 55K 350K
Advertising/Communciations Media Director / 10+ Years 110K 700K
Advertising/Communciations Account Manager / 3+ Years 32K 200K
Advertising/Communciations English Copywriter / 4+ Years 44K 280K
Banking/Financial Services Top-Level Positions / 10+ Years 190K+ 1.2M+
Banking/Financial Services Mid-Level and Junior Positions / 3+ Years 48 to 110K 300 to 700K
Education ESL Teacher / 0 Years 7K 44K
Education ESL Teacher / 3+ Years 8K 50K
Human Resources Manager / 6+ Years 80K 500K
IT/Telecommunications Project Manager / 8+ Years 80 to 140K 500 to 900K
IT/Telecommunications Developer / 7+ Years 95K 600K
Legal International Law Firm / 6+ Years PQE 205K 1.3M
Legal In-House Corporate Lawyer / 6+ Years 95K 600K
Property/Construction Architect / 5+ Years 80K 500K
Property/Construction Project Manager / 8+ Years 110K 700K
Property/Construction Engineer  / 5+ Years 22K 140K
Sales/Marketing Managing Director / 20+ Years 315K+ 2M+
Sales/Marketing Mid-Level Manager / 7+ Years 48 to 110K 300 to 700K
Sales/Marketing Front Office Manager / 5+ Years 36K 230K
*Note further that these are aggregated amounts of an average expat salary in the private sector in China: if you work for a small firm or company, expect to earn a little less; if you work for a large firm or company (or better yet, a foreign company), expect to earn a little more. The amounts quoted also assume a fair amount of relevant work experience – as a foreign worker in China, a minimum of 8 years is preferred. 

Saving potential for expats in China

For many expats, the question of whether or not to emigrate to China will depend on their saving potential – i.e. how much money they can 'bank' at the end of every month, after paying tax and  covering accommodation and living expenses. 
For highly qualified and skilled expats, this is not so much of a concern, with about 25 percent of expats in China earning in the region of USD 200K a year. For those seeking mid-level employment in China, however, the following factors should be taken into consideration: 
  • Although China's cost of living is famously low – with youthful ESL teachers known to live on about RMB 3,500 (USD 500) per month – your expat salary package remains very important. Try to negotiate the best possible deal for yourself, as often the 'perks' of your contract will decide whether a move to China is financially viable for you or not.
  • Although many Chinese employers won't provide an accommodation stipend, some will. You're doing well if they offer you something in the region of RMB 9,000 (USD 1,500) per month.
  • Health insurance for foreign workers in China is quite expensive, and if this is provided in your salary package, it will save you at least RMB 1,300 (USD 200) per month.
  • The issue of whether or not the company will provide for education expenses is often the 'deal-breaker' for expat families planning a move to China. The price of good-quality international education is astronomical – as much as RMB 1.2M (USD 200K) per year in the most extreme cases.
  • Bear in mind, too, that most expats will be taxed around 20% of their monthly salary in China, but that this can rise to 40% for high earners.
  • Note that as a foreign worker in China, you will be expected to work very hard for your money, and that the intensity of the Chinese workplace can be a bit overwhelming for some expats.
  • Remember that although working in China might not be as financially rewarding as working in other expat destinations, such as the Middle East or Russia, there are some wonderful cultural benefits to such an adventure. China is at the forefront of global economic development, and there are many exciting things happening within the country to attract ambitious professionals. Also, the opportunity to learn a bit of Mandarin is widely reported by expats to be one of the most valuable aspects of working in China. 


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