Expat China

China is truly a beautiful and interesting country. Considered the heart of Asia, China has been a major force in culture, warfare, and industry for thousands of years. China is one of the most popular destinations for expats interested in exploring the orient. It is quite difficult for foreigners to live in China long term. There are also many barriers that make it quite difficult to enjoy the treasures of this beautiful country. However, China is the ultimate destination for anyone looking for adventures and challenges.


China has one of the largest land masses in the world, so the climate tends to vary depending on the region. South China tends to be warmer and is often characterized by tropical weather. To the north, the climate can be bitterly cold. However, most of the inland cities have seasonal distinctions.

Monsoons are also a big part of China’s weather. The monsoons bring the rainy season which is from May to September. China’s capital city of Beijing has continental weather. Cold Siberian weather causes China’s winters to be dry and cold. A Chinese summer is characterized by warm, wet weather and monsoons. China receives 40% of its rainfall in June, July, and August.


China is a Communist Country. Life under communist rule is far different from what U.S citizens are accustomed to. The Chinese government has absolute control over many areas of Chinese culture and society. For instance, the government has placed restrictions on the press, religion, and other types of social movements. These restrictions, although noticeable to Westerners, does not detract from the joy, culture, and wonderful people that China has.

To find out more about the government of China from a U.S.-centered point of view, check out the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The embassy has alot of helpful information regarding visas, U.S citizen services, U.S policies/ issues, and resources for individuals who want to do business with the Chinese or start a business in China.

Tax System

China is a global powerhouse and has the second largest economy in the world. However, most Chinese people are rather poor. While it might be fairly easy for expats to teach English or provide other essential services in healthcare or IT, it is generally difficult to start a business in China.

It can take a little over a month to start a business and entrepreneurs can run into many unexpected hurdles because of China’s lack of transparency and standardization. China’s tax rate is high in comparison to the United States’. For instance, the top tax rate is 45% for individuals and 33% for corporations. Besides income taxes, there is also a VAT (value added tax) and a real estate tax on most types of property.

Information about how to prepare taxes as an expat from the United States can be found at IRS: International Taxpayer and China Double Taxation Prevention Treaties.

Medical Care

Medical care in China has dramatically improved as a result of China’s economic growth. Although rural areas of China may not have adequate health care available, medical care and emergency services are easily accessible in the larger cities and more populated areas.

For instance, regardless of one’s location in China, one can contact emergency medical personnel by dialing 120. Although emergency assistance is immediately available, the reality is that patients who have non-emergency ailments may become frustrated by the Chinese medical system.

Expats can use the same hospitals and even pay the same amount for care as Chinese citizens. There are a few Westernized medical centers that charge much more for care, but for the most part, expats have to rely on normal Chinese healthcare services.

Many hospitals are not as clean, well lit or comfortable as most westerners are used to. In fact, many westerners refuse to return after waiting for hours, dealing with rude nurses and doctors, and experiencing many other language and cultural problems.

Real Estate

China’s real estate market is not very friendly to foreign investors. While renting an apartment or house is pretty simple, purchasing property can be quite confusing, difficult or even impossible. Investing in real estate is quite risky as there are not many property rights in China and the judicial system can be quite inconsistent and partial. The Chinese government began curbing real estate investments in 2006 . The most realistic option for anyone who is interested in spending a few years or more in China is to rent. The Beijing local government has made it mandatory for all foreigners to receive a permit before renting.


China’s visitors will definitely enjoy the shopping there. China is legendary for its beautiful products including high quality silks, embroidery, antiques, jade, and porcelain.

There are shopping areas all over the country. Visitors can find many items to browse through and buy whether they are in the city or rural areas. Chinese flea markets are filled with almost every item. Although shopping is more expensive in the cities, visitors will still be getting great bargains.

Anyone who purchases antiques should ensure that the shop’s red seal is included with their purchase. This allows buyers to transport the antique out of the country with little or no problems.

China has many eateries to enjoy. Chinese cuisine varies and some of their food may not suit western taste. However, visitors will not have any difficulty finding restaurants that are up to U.S standards. Many large Chinese cities have fast food eateries such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC.

Cost of Living

China’s cost of living is very low, and unfortunately, so are the wages. Most items are very affordable. For instance, a McDonald’s Big Mac is about 80 cents and clothing only costs a few dollars. Electronics similar to those in the U.S. are fairly cheap, and may even cost 10 to 20% less. Groceries are cheaper as well. Housing is also inexpensive, especially in the rural areas. However, properties in major cities like Beijing are rather expensive.

Web Sites for Expats in China

Beijing Community Forum

Beijing Expat and Chinese Community Forum.


Posted to Shanghai? Preparing your relocation to Shanghai? Living and working in Shanghai? This is the site for expatriates prior to and long after their arrival in Shanghai.

Blogs from Expats in China

China Blog List

The China Blog List (CBL) is a collection of links to English language weblogs focused on China. The CBL plays an important role in providing the rest of the world with convenient access to firsthand accounts and independent views of China.

Map of China