China’s Word/Phrase of the Year

In the US, I would nominate “subprime.” In China, my suggestion is “visa policy.

With the Beijing Olympics less than two months away, hotel operators, travel agencies, and foreign businessmen say new Chinese visa restrictions are proving bad for business, casting a pall over Beijing during what was supposed to be a busy and jubilant tourist season leading up to the Olympic Games.

Chinese authorities acknowledged putting new visa restrictions in place in May — after foreign embassies reported fewer visas being granted and tighter, sometimes seemingly arbitrary, restrictions. The government did not release guidelines detailing the changes in policy; it often does not. But a foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said in May that they would be temporary.

On Monday, Hu Bin, a visa official at the foreign ministry, said the ministry had no statistics on the number of visa denials, but that the new policies were put in place for “security considerations.”

Travel business analysts had forecast that the Games would bring 500,000 foreign visitors and an extra $4.5 billion in revenue to Beijing this summer. But now, even though some five-star hotels are fully booked for the Olympics, many economists are beginning to doubt the city will get the kind of economic windfall it was hoping for.

Many hotels in Beijing are struggling to find guests; some large travel agencies have temporarily closed branches; and people scheduled to travel here for seminars and conferences are canceling. The number of foreign tourists visiting Beijing fell sharply in May, dropping by 14 percent, according to the city’s statistics bureau.

Beijing residents, meanwhile, are complaining that heightened security measures could spoil what was supposed to be Beijing’s long anticipated coming-out party. Despite years of careful preparation — including teaching taxi drivers English and instructing locals in how to wait in a line (not common here), and spending billions on mammoth building projects for these Games — Beijing is starting to appear less welcoming to foreigners.

“Business is so bleak,” said Di Jian, the sales manager at the Capital Hotel in Beijing. “Since May, very few foreigners have checked in. Our occupancy rate has dropped by 40 percent.”

I have been apartment hunting (finally found a new place) and there is now a sizable glut of places. Those landlords who’ve held up thinking that August would make them gazillionaires are in for a rude shock, largely thanks to their government’s ham-fisted policies. Prices are higher, for sure, but not outrageous, and as August 8 approaches they will have to drop further. I keep hearing how people are staying away largely due to the misery and complications of getting a visa. Foreigners I know who live here as freelancers are getting very creative (I won’t give away any secrets).

This seems to be the cocktail party topic of choice throughout Beijing, mainly because it’s simply bewildering. You can’t open the door and slam it shut at the same time. Yeah, you need to be careful and keep security top of mind. Getting through security at a US airport now is a descent into hell, but at least you know you’ll eventually get through in a fairly reasonable amount of time, ridiculous as the bureaucracy is. With getting a visa, the outcome is far less certain, and a high level of anxiety is practically guaranteed because there are so many unknowns and gray areas.

Most bewildering is that the self-inflicted visa mess flies in the face of all of China’s goals: to open up the country to the world; to show that they have emerged from a prickly authoritarian state defined by its mindless bureaucracy to a modern superpower defined by its adorable fuwas and slick skyscrapers; to give tourism the greatest boost ever and encourage the masses around the world to head over. So once again, the country I love mystifies me with its irrational, self-defeating, hopelessly confused rules.

And to add the balance we all crave, the US mystifies me as well, and every time I see airport security grab one of those lethal tubes of toothpaste and chuck it into the tall clear plastic bin I wonder just how nutty governments can be. At least with the US, I kind of see why they go through the ridiculous procedures. In the case of the visa policy, I see neither rhyme nor reason, only a murky, unthought-through self-imposed mess.

 

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 99 Comments

All graduate students that I work with from China have SSC’s and bank accounts.
That’s because they work. F-1 visa alone will not land you a SSC. Any university’s international program can confirm this.

Small wonder he’s vanished.
Actually he started blogging himself.

June 25, 2008 @ 9:24 pm | Comment

@CLC

Well, Social Security administration has tightened up somewhat after 9/11, but the fact remains that it is possible for international students – who are eligible for on-campus employment – to get a SSC#. And with a proper ID, it is possible to do a lot of things even without a SSC#. For all the blemishes of the US system, once you are in the US, it is infinitely more open to foreigners than China is. Which is why people keep coming.

Most of us are willing to accept the hassles of living in China as long as it is relatively easy to go there and reasonably priced. If China continues its current policies, people will go elsewhere and the Chinese economy will suffer.

June 25, 2008 @ 9:37 pm | Comment

@Amban,

I don’t think we disagree here. Yes, F-1 student are eligible for on-campus employment. They can also apply for OPT after they graduate while still on F-1 visa. However, it’s not always easy or pragmatic for them to find a job (eg. ESL students).

once you are in the US, it is infinitely more open to foreigners than China is.
That’s the key. You have to be in first. I have heard of plenty of US visa horror stories. One case I witnessed happened right after the X-mas in 2002. A Chinese graduate student came back from the US to accompany his wife to apply visas together. His visa application was granted but his wife’s was not. He got upset and said he did not want the visa if his wife could not get one. The visa official just took his passport and stamped it, saying something like “you’ll never get to enter the US.”

Finally, I have to say the current Chinese visa restriction is counter productive and I hope it will only be temporary.

June 25, 2008 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

That’s because graduate student + wife = two new immigrants who do not leave and then they bring parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins.

Not that there is anything wrong with that per se.

If they said upfront we want to immigrate to America that’s a different story. More direct and honest.

Americans have mixed feelings about how many they want coming here to the land of opportunity.

Past experience tells us that the graduate student visa route is often a backdoor closet immigrant in waiting. The wife only re-enforces that probabilty.

June 25, 2008 @ 11:57 pm | Comment

they bring parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins.

Really? via what kind of visa program?

If they said upfront we want to immigrate to America that’s a different story. More direct and honest.

If you are familiar with US visa policy, you know that statment will lead to an automatic denial.

June 26, 2008 @ 12:33 am | Comment

My first chinese teacher is an example. She came to attend graduate school. Then obtained work visa, applied for citizenship, obtained green card, brought husband over, then middle sister and her husband, then younger sister, then parents.

Once one stays and gets naturalized then it is possible to start sponsoring relatives.

People apply for and are granted asylum or request to immigrate here and become naturalize citizens to the US all the time. The first question they ask you is “Why do you want to immigrate to the united states?” You fenqing will have difficulty getting past that question.

Marry a citizen then request immigration status is another methodology.

Contact the INS and ask about immigration if you want to learn more or you can rent the amusing movie entitled “Green Card” staring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell

One of my chinese teachers became a citizen after he came here as a student. He requested citizenship after June 4th 1989 to escape the repressive government and to have the right to be a christian. He told us how the FBI contacted him after 6-4 to offer protection in case he was being targeted for harassment by agents of the chinese government, he is now a citizen and worked for the state department.

June 26, 2008 @ 5:10 am | Comment

Did you miss me already, Amban? I think I was only gone for what… 24 hrs? If that?

Part of the reason we started blogging is so that our words can be collected, and people can evaluate what I say themselves, rather than relying on the impressions of our friend kevinwhereeverheis. So, for those who want to see what I (and other say), refer to:
http://blog.foolsmountain.com

I think Rohan makes a good point above:

There are obviously two competing interests at work here for China: a desire to get foreign business, versus a desire to keep out foreign troublemakers.

And yes, I certainly agree with that. When I compare Chinese visa policies to American policies, it’s only to suggest isn’t particularly malicious. In fact, it’s perfectly benign in comparison. Foreigners that want to stay for an extended amount of time in China, foreigners that want to work in China should be properly accredited and regulate.. just like every other developed country.

I also said above that if the goal was to “keep out foreign trouble-makers” from the Olympics, I think the policy is ridiculous. It simply won’t work, for one thing. Tibetan activists can get a hotel room reservation as easily as anyone else. But if the policy stays, then I approve.

If I believed this policy would have a significant effect on “getting foreign business”, I would be concerned. China’s priority should still be economic growth. But frankly, I don’t believe that, and I’m not concerned. China’s attractiveness and economic competitiveness is due to many reasons, and a good visa policy is very low on the list. Like I mentioned earlier, I was more concerned about changing the tax codes… but hell, if GM and everyone else will continue to do business in China despite paying tens of millions more in taxes every year, I think they’ll put up with the work of faxing in a few receipts.

As far as whether this means foreigners are welcome in Beijing for the Olympics, I think the answer is clear: yes, but on our terms.

PS. Is there a way to turn off that constantly updating preview window below this? On Firefox, it makes typing painfully slow.

June 26, 2008 @ 7:07 am | Comment

Oh, and back to the topic of F-1 students getting by in the US, obviously, there *is* a path to staying and thriving. But to put it mildly, it remains 100x more difficult for Chinese students in the US than vice versa.

And yes, Lindel is absolutely right on this point. If we didn’t like it, if the rewards didn’t out-weigh the costs, we would leave. And all those in China should follow the same advice.

June 26, 2008 @ 7:11 am | Comment

@Buxi

As far as whether this means foreigners are welcome in Beijing for the Olympics, I think the answer is clear: yes, but on our terms.

In general, I would agree with you, but this is a special case. China is arranging the Olympics, but China does not own the Olympics. And so far, it seems that the Chinese government has failed to deliver on many of the promises that were given when China was awarded the games.

But to put it mildly, it remains 100x more difficult for Chinese students in the US than vice versa.

…and what do you base that on? Did you even read what I wrote?

June 26, 2008 @ 7:45 am | Comment

China is arranging the Olympics, but China does not own the Olympics. And so far, it seems that the Chinese government has failed to deliver on many of the promises that were given when China was awarded the games.

Was a visa policy not requiring proof of hotel accommodations on that list of Olympic promises? When I visited Europe 2 years ago, I had to provide all of that and more. I didn’t try Athens 2004, but I suspect they would’ve demanded the same.

As far as the student visa thing… I already said you *can not* get a SSN on a F-1 student visa, not unless you have some sort of on-campus employment. Did you respond to this? I didn’t see a response.

Even aggressively speaking, that’s typically at least a 3 month process. Not many Chinese land and find even RA/TA positions waiting for them. And without a SSN, you can’t do much else, including applying for a credit card, and I assume opening up a bank account.

And god forbid trying to make money on the side, by teaching Chinese (or even washing dishes) for example. No working permit (and you won’t get one without a H1 and/or employer willing to sponsor a green card), means no legal employment outside of the pittance you get as a RA and TA. (I was paid $1500/mo stipend as a graduate student.)

June 26, 2008 @ 9:01 am | Comment

Tang Buxi: I totally agree with your first post. The only difference I can see in the tourist visa policy is the required documentation of airline tickets and hotel reservations and the fee has risen from $50.00 to $130.00. I’ve always made all my reservations 5 to 7 months before my trip (ok, a little anal) and I usually apply for my visa about 2 months before. No one seemed to be able or interested in answering your question about if there were any arbitrary denials for tourist visas. Anyone? The New York Times didn’t seem to know either. Don’t most tour groups schedule all the plane and hotel reservations? Is that so impossible to document? Don’t Chinese need the same information to get a U.S. visa? And an invitation?

For the last 3 years a Chinese friend has been my guide and companion on all my trips to China. He has applied for a U.S. tourist visa 4 times and been rejected.

From the U.S. Embassy in Beijing page: http://tiny.cc/x7eHu

“Section 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act states:

Every alien shall presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status… ”

This is sad. Every Aussie, Brit or Frenchie who wants to see the Grand Canyon or Empire State Building is presumed to be planning to immigrate?

“Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. “Ties” are the various aspects of a person’s life that bind them to their country or residence: possessions, employment, social and family relationships. Some examples of ties can be a persons job and income, a house or apartment, a car, close family relationships, bank accounts, etc.”

The last time my friend was rejected he had a good job with a media company, owned a car, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment in Beijing that I couldn’t afford, and had two elderly parents living in Beijing. He was still turned down. About a month later his business decided to send a group to the U.S. for a conference. His 8 or 9 coworkers were interviewed on the same day, but because he had applied within the month for a tourist visa, he had to come on a special day. Needless to say, his coworkers, even a very young guy with no car or major posessions, were all granted their visas and he was denied his for a 5th time. He was getting discouraged but his boss insisted he apply again under some kind of emergency scheduling as he was the only one in his group who spoke English. Finally, he was granted a visa. He came to the U.S. on a business visa but he’s still unable to visit me because he can’t get a tourist visa. It’s all a little embarrassing. He’s not interested in the immigrating to the U.S. and since someday I’d love to move to China, I want him THERE! On a side note, I have described this state of affairs to my own coworkers many many times and they still seem to think my friend can’t get into this country because China won’t let him leave! Haaaaaaaaaaaa! JFC! Americans!

June 26, 2008 @ 10:07 am | Comment

Richard. Neil is right. It was not a bullshit plot. I lost my toothpaste, shamnpoo, and some very expensive cologne, after-shave because, while I’d seen the threat on the message traffic, I failed to pay attention to the counter-measures being instituted before my trip to Taiwan. More annoyingly, after Incheon airport security personnel gleefully dispossessed me of these items, I climbed on the plane to discover that the airlines was quite willing to sell me their replacements duty free.

Maybe there is poetic justice, after all.

June 26, 2008 @ 10:21 am | Comment

My first chinese teacher is an example. She came to attend graduate school. Then obtained work visa, applied for citizenship, obtained green card, brought husband over, then middle sister and her husband, then younger sister, then parents.

OK, one can not apply for citizenship directly while on a work visa. First, she/he has to apply for a green card, which may take several years. After 5 years of holding a green card, she/he may apply for citizenship. Once she/he becomes a citizen, she may sponsor her siblings, but as 4th family-sponsored preference the wait time is over 10 years. So in your example, it will take at least 15-20 years before she can bring her first sister over. When did you begin to learn Chinese?

June 26, 2008 @ 10:27 am | Comment

“This is sad. Every Aussie, Brit or Frenchie who wants to see the Grand Canyon or Empire State Building is presumed to be planning to immigrate?”
How about an automatic 90-day tourist visa for aussies, brits, and frenchies… as well as japanese, etc. through the mutual visa waiver program?
Any other ridiculous assertions?

June 26, 2008 @ 10:33 am | Comment

Kevin

So we only worry about yellow and brown people? Surprise! Surprise! Home of the free. Land of the brave.

June 26, 2008 @ 10:37 am | Comment

yes, shockeye, no yellow people in Japan, and no brown people in the USA, of course.

June 26, 2008 @ 10:44 am | Comment

“So in your example, it will take at least 15-20 years before she can bring her first sister over.”
Just to kind of level the playing field here, how long does it take for me to get a Chinese green card? I lived in China for over 5 years and I did not see any path to citizenship, nor even a f-ing green card. I am married to a Chinese citizen, spent the majority of my adult life in China, but can i expect permanent resident status (not that I would ever want it, to say the least)? Do you know how many so-called “laowai” have Chinese green cards? Last I checked, we are talking about roughly 100 people, and some who had lived in the country for decades were ineligible.
If you want to turn this into a national pissing contest, those claiming “Chinese openness” have no chance of even coming close to the US, an immigrant nation. How about you return to the issue at hand, which you are of course in a hurry to dodge and distract others from, namely the inept government response to hosting an international event?

June 26, 2008 @ 10:51 am | Comment

PS- shockeye, i believe it is “land of the free, and the home of the brave,” not the other way around. Nevertheless, unlike certain sinocentric bloggers, i will not cast doubt on your “american-ness.”

June 26, 2008 @ 10:52 am | Comment

Kevie:

So the law is only against Chinese?

June 26, 2008 @ 11:05 am | Comment

No, actually, it isn’t, my uninformed friend. Rather than spouting off “it’s against the yellow and brown people” or “it’s only against the Chinese,” you might want to do a little “research” on the mutual visa waiver exchange program, and then attempt to have an intelligent discussion on visas rather than a collection of wild, unsubstantiated guesses all aimed at proclaiming “america so bad!”

June 26, 2008 @ 11:25 am | Comment

Kevin, one guess which country shockeye is posting from?

June 26, 2008 @ 11:36 am | Comment

Kevie and Richard:

You guys are so cute. You should get a room. Really! You two are pathetic. I love China and have Chinese friends so I can’t be American? I was born in Arkansas, grew up in Illinois, and live in Arkansas again. My family has been here for over 200 years. I don’t see any problem with the new visa policy. Documenting your reservations is no big deal. If there are arbitrary refusals that’s a different thing but so far I haven’t seen any proof of that and I hope it’s not the case. Also, the rules for a business visa (Forbes article) seem to be a bit more complicated. That’s a shame but it doesn’t concern me. When I can’t repay the hospitality of my Chinese friends it leaves me a little sad and embarrassed.

June 26, 2008 @ 11:49 am | Comment

After we get a room, I will be sure to notify the nearest PSB.

June 26, 2008 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

I do agree that the US visa policies suck …. trying to get my g/f to the US and meet the folks has been impossible. However, the discussion should not be about comparing China’s visa policy with another country’s. It’s about how the new policy is hurting China …. not who is better / worse.

China’s recent rise is due to foreign investment. Driven by people traveling and moving to China and setting up systems. Foreigners were invited to help build the country. It was great to watch and participate in. Going back to closed borders is not a good way to continue the trend. And I’m not talking tourist visas. My company is having problems with work visas also. We buy from China factories. No visas means no business trips which means ….. no Purchase Orders …..

June 26, 2008 @ 2:52 pm | Comment

I think Chinese goverment truely had foreigners personal safety in mind when they made this decision, you know, when the west media talked all these chinese hypernationlists, these mobsters, fei-qings, they are brain-washed crazies you know, they attack McDonalds, beat up American teachers, gather in number of thousands shouting communists slogans, it’s down right scary! From the American media you would Iraq is safer than China for them, so Chinese goverment did the only thing they could, even it means to sacrifice China’s own economic interests, what a noble move! and you guys are complaining about it?!

June 26, 2008 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

“Do you know how many so-called “laowai” have Chinese green cards? Last I checked, we are talking about roughly 100 people, and some who had lived in the country for decades were ineligible.”

One of those 100 people is Canadian writer Lisa Carducci. She wrote a book about China: “As Great as the World”. Jason Lee wrote about it on his site “China Book Reviews”. So, one way to get a Chinese green card is to write a book the essence of which is: China good, USA bad. Maybe the American government could do that as well. Let’s say I write a book titled “As Big as the Universe (and my Ego)” in which I describe what a paradise the USA are and that no other country is even half as great – especially that evil empire on the other side of the ocean – and then I get my green card and the official title “Friend of the American People”. Sounds like a rather exaggerated satire? It’s reality in the People’s Republic of China.

June 26, 2008 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

I just got an idea. Maybe that’s what is driving people like shockeye? I was always wondering why all these commenters from the USA seem to feel this strong desire to justify and gloss over just about every action and policy of the CCP. Now I know: they are just trying to become “Friends of the Chinese People” like Lisa Carducci and in this way get their Chinese green cards so they can be with their friends who are not allowed to visit them because of the evil US visa regulations. So, Red Star, Ferin and all the others, apologies to you for misinterpreting your intentions! Now I understand that you are twisting facts, slandering innocent people and cursing their families for a good cause.

June 27, 2008 @ 12:14 am | Comment

I lived in China for over 5 years and I did not see any path to citizenship, nor even a f-ing green card.

And do you know why you don’t want a f-ing green card? Because you can work, because you have an income, because you can purchase property, despite all of your protestations, you’re not really concerned about arbitrarily being deported from China tomorrow or refused re-entry into the country, and losing everything.

If the Chinese had all those rights in the US, vast majority wouldn’t give a fuck about a green card and path to citizenship, either.

June 27, 2008 @ 2:12 am | Comment

Buxi, now you’re talkin’

June 27, 2008 @ 4:14 am | Comment

richard – I’m not convinced at all by the article you linked to. Of course i agree about the post 911 paranoia and so on, but as far as airport security goes im quite happy to go through all the security checks that are considered necessary by the authorities for our personal safety. They are the ‘experts’ after all. Even if i had to go naked into an xray machine i wouldn’t care. What i do hate is the random screening, snooping of passenger lists, fingerprinting etc etc in the name of the fight against ‘terror’. This is just an excuse to erode civil liberties and increase the power of the government over our everyday lives, all in the name of a war against ‘terror’. What a joke.

June 27, 2008 @ 4:29 am | Comment

Yokie,

“The discussion should not be about comparing China’s visa policy with another country’s. It’s about how the new policy is hurting China …. not who is better / worse.”

It’s the only argument they know.

June 27, 2008 @ 5:51 am | Comment

“And do you know why you don’t want a f-ing green card?”
There are a number of reasons. Pollution, rising crime in urban areas, media and Internet restrictions, blatant xenophobic nationalism, market bubbles, etc. I particularly enjoy the ability to surf the Internet freely now: it wasn’t until I went to China that I realized just how great the rights that I enjoy in the US truly are.
About the ability to open an account, I really wouldn’t exactly consider the ability to open a Chinese bank account a privilege/ right. Considering the quality of service, it is probably easier and faster to become a US citizen than to handle a single task at a Chinese bank. Of course, you know nothing about this, and I’ve probably spent significantly more time in China in recent years than you, China-lover! Distance does indeed build affection!
Also Tang, I would recommend that you drop the whole “can’t open a bank account” thing, as explained above. Even if you don’t have an SSN (which everyone I know does), you can still get a Taxpayer Identification Number, even if you are illegal! Sorry to have blown another hole in your mistaken ASS-umptions.

June 27, 2008 @ 7:24 am | Comment

Tang, should you like to learn more about how to open a bank account with an F1 visa, you can read this http://tinyurl.com/5mbrrw before making any more mistaken statements.
Can we please talk about the effects of China’s visa closure now?

June 27, 2008 @ 7:30 am | Comment

Do we have any more to say about this topic? I think it’s pretty much exhausted. Tang will never agree that he’s wrong, so I don’t see much sense in arguing any more.

Neil, we can agree to disagree about airport security. I think the whole liquids and shoe hysteria at US airports are symptomatic of our paranoia and accomplish less than nothing. The US seems to be the only place where they’re worried bout people’s shoes. All in reaction to one idiot who tried to use his shoe as a bomb. The liquids hysteria similarly was later exposed as preposterous. We need to be rigorous, but also realistic. The TSA has been a great improvement over pr-911 airport non-security. But some of the regulations protect no one and cause needless waiting and anxiety. Taking away people’s toothpaste….

June 27, 2008 @ 8:22 am | Comment

Before this thread ends, I would like to ask if there is any other country in history that has actually tightened visa requirements before their Olympics? I think that it is sad, counterintuitive (particularly in terms of economics, which are the sacred obsession in contermporary China), and runs counter to the supposed reasons that the Olympics are being held in Beijing (for a “new” new China’s coming-out party).

June 27, 2008 @ 9:11 am | Comment

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After living in the USA and EU for over 8 years, I finally returned to China.

I can say from my experience- lots of things in China are not perfect or ill-managed, but it is constantly improving.

Tang and Shockeye have made it very clear- the intention is to filter trouble makers/ visa abusers both in and outside of China- it is sure can be done more effectively. If you want to come here, deal with it. The rather relaxed enforcement in the past had made many people taking it for granted, so another surprise when law means law now.

China owes its economic growth to some degree to foreign investment and communications, but the ‘anything goes’ days are over. Don’t forget, those came to China made huge payback, many times more than hard-working locals. ‘Surplus with China but Profit is with America’ is the right way to describe it. So stop acting like a savior.
Illegal immigration is also becoming huge issues in China, a country not prepared for or even capable of handling immigration at all. We want only bond-fide tourists, business visitors and people with special skills not competing with locals. Many people I talk to think the life in China gave best value for the level of comfort and excitement. Something has to be done to restrict illegal immigration before it is too late- look at Guangzhou.

Again the policy will be refined- this is only the first attempt to enforce immigration laws. 友邦惊诧论?

July 2, 2008 @ 5:01 am | Comment

I’m curious…what do you mean by “Look at Guangzhou”?

July 2, 2008 @ 8:28 am | Comment

“Hard-working locals”? A persistent myth but easily destroyed by factual comparison of mainland China labour productivity with other countries (labor productivity is the quantity of output per time spent or numbers employed) or by anecdote, as Filipinos being preferred staff in many mainland Chinese restaurants and bars because they are hard-working, earnest and have less attitude problems than local staff, and that you – having been overseas for 8 years – should also know that many Taiwanese and Hong Kong managers think mainland Chinese are lazy and troublesome.

The biggest problem facing most foreign firms in China is training then retaining local staff; the quality of management staff in particular is not outstanding and is typically opportunistic, constantly on the make for immediately higher wages.海歸usually have inflated opinions of themselves (but very adept at re-arranging the organizational chart to acquire the maximum number of direct reports, inflating their positions so to speak) and are often at odds with local staff; I have personal experience of two such “sea turtles” who insisted on speaking English to everyone including mainland Chinese and Taiwanese. This was not for training’s sake but an exercise in egoism that antagonized everyone. So, too, many of these turtles think their appointment is by reason they can liase and control the foreigners when in fact they fail at their primary responsibility, which is to manage the firm to profitability, and so foreign firms in China continue to look to Hong Kong, Singapore or expats for management competency.

The fact also remains that despite large investment of capital and time most foreign-owned companies just don’t profit from mainland China business but depend on exports (usually back to their homeland) to justify continuing operations in China.

Surely you can admit that “illegal immigration” is not a problem in China which doesn’t even allow immigration for foreigners despite the allowance in the constitution? How many foreigners (外國人and not 港澳台胞) immigrate to China? How many foreigners settle down to live in China? Just look at the pitifully small numbers of housing units bought by foreigners (again, 外國人 and not 港澳台胞) to see the truth. Yes, it is also ignorantly easy to blame the poor job market on foreigners but that is not the reason why so many Chinese university graduates remain unemployed and underemployed. And so, most want to go overseas for opportunity, to increase their marketability, and for what they think is a sure road to wealth; sound familiar to you?

July 2, 2008 @ 11:13 am | Comment

-Scott

Many of your comments are irrlevant to the visa issue, but anyway I will start from the most relevant(which also happens to be most absurd)..

On the contrar, China has problem of illegal immigration, with no problem on legal immigration because allowed permanent residents of foreigner passport holders are small in number(rightly so due to population constraint), but there are more and more. My housing complex and those around are full of foreigners. Buying home is personal choice, though. Foreign buying will not be good news for locals who struggles with even higher housing cost anyway.

On profit- none of the companies I worked at have manufacturing operation in China but continue to expand exponentially in China anyway. Where did you get your ‘ most’ claim? It is more due to ‘expat’ compensation- one of my friend from Belgium came 2 years ago, earning more than the 100 workers at his factory combined- try to be profitable when you have many.

On productivity- bar/restaurant worker preference is probably more due to language and communication skills. This is also precisely a reflection on how relaxed immigration law on foreign labor in China.
Management needs to look at compensation paid when demanding quality performance. Many managers are more concerned about securing their positions than to develop & inspire local talents. My office experience in California and my responsibility to manage South Asia business tells me exactly how fragile those positions are.
One thing I agree with you- I do hate those ‘Speaking English’ attitude- returned Chinese are not a whole talented bunch anymore- many lacking necessary skills and went overseas with money because could not compete at home in the first place. My overseas experience did broadened my perspective, while I also contributed to American and European economy, paying above average taxes, with limited social benefit, spending, etc. Professional marketability is a natural drive-otherwise, did you come to China because of a demotion?

July 3, 2008 @ 1:58 pm | Comment

I addressed your initial post mostly by the points you raised explicitly or incidentally so you have little reason to complain about the relevancy of my comments to the visa issue. I was just addressing topics you raised no matter how absurd you now find them.

Chen, please look to the actual numbers of foreigners who have 房產證; moreover, foreigners are restricted to a single residential property. Now, for example, compare that to the numbers of 溫州人 who own properties; the local news reports one 溫州人 who is sitting on 23 separate properties. My own building in Shanghai with 150 units has some 40%+ by 溫州人, about 35% owned by Shanghainese who have returned from abroad, the rest owned by Taiwanese and those from Hong Kong, and three units are owned by foreigners. Ours is not a high-end property but cost about RMB8500-9000/sq.meter when bought in 2001; now the price is RMB27000+/sq.meter. The rise in the cost of housing is caused by domestic speculators and not foreigners (very, very few buy property). Full of foreigners? Less than 2% of Shanghai’s population is foreigners and most don’t stay for more than a year or two. As a foreigner I can tell you truthfully, the cost per square meter of housing in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen is now long past ridiculously high and a poor investment relative to value. The highest-end properties, like that bombastic monstrosity Shanghai Richgate (華府大廈), are owned by Taiwanese, Hong Kong Chinese and mainland Chinese who love such showy trash.

If you want information on foreign firms’ local profitability (i.e. profit derived from local business as opposed to exports) look to the government tax records, reports and surveys by competent reporting agencies like the Far Eastern Economic Review, and talk to those involved with foreign firms. In 2005 70% of the top exporting firms in China were foreign-owned and the bulk of China’s imports and exports is done by foreign firms, just like Taiwan in the 1970’s and 80’s.

My remarks on how Taiwanese and Hong Kong managers, from restaurant owners to operators of large businesses, see mainland Chinese workers stands. If you have truly spent time in Southeast Asia then you would know the attitudes of, say native Singaporeans, to the mainland Chinese at work, and the attitudes of say, Thais, to the mainland Chinese at play.

Most foreign managers come to this country with an explicit directive to find the person who will replace them and train the staff to work independently of the home office; can’t you understand that is the reason why foreign firms give such high salaries to rather ordinary local talents? And why so much time is spent trying to attract and keep local staff? Also, Chinese in the main prefer to work with foreign especially US companies for reason advancement is by merit and not connections, yet you deny that fact.

Now to my personal side. No, I wasn’t demoted nor do I advance by my rung on the corporate ladder, because my position and situation allow me to work in the Asia-Pacific region but live wherever I choose. I chose Shanghai to return to the language and culture I studied at university in the US and Taiwan, the language and culture of my wife of 26 years, and to stop travelling back and forth from the US to the region eight times a year. By the way, practically none of my business is done in China; I chose Shanghai because I like the city and people here and am generally liked in kind. Obviously you’re distressed by a city “full of foreigners” and I find it odd that you have “a friend from Belgium” but bitch about his compensation relative to 100 factory workers.

Now to your personal side. Did you not learn in all your time abroad that intellectual honesty was not only a virtue but necessary to self-respect?

July 3, 2008 @ 6:31 pm | Comment

Scott, thanks for a very reasonable and articulate response to a very dumb and mean-spirited comment.

July 3, 2008 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

May I ask, how many times the hourly wage of a factory worker or assembler is your salary? And, would you like your earnings based on that of a factory worker or assembler? Why not tell your wife and family that you will not accept earning more than 100 workers at the factory combined?

July 3, 2008 @ 6:47 pm | Comment

What about you , Scott? How would you do with the wage of a factory worker?

July 4, 2008 @ 6:04 am | Comment

Address your questions to Chen or go play with yourself and stop bothering the adults.

July 4, 2008 @ 8:37 am | Comment

Scott- again, you are picking fight irrelevant to the visa issue- I suggest you read the below link which will help you understand why China is enforcing the law, which ‘surprised’ some people.

http://www.chinalawblog.com/2008/04/china_visa_certainty_z_visas_a.html

Why I am saying you are ‘picking fight’? My initial comment was to moderate/balance the seemingly extreme narrow-minded exchanges. Acknowledging room for improvement and foreign contribution while giving perspective on why enforcing the immigration law now.

You manipulated many of my comments- ‘not competiting with locals’ is a well-regarded principle in general in immigration, desirable in drafting the regulation(i.e. INS/Labor ad requirement). I DIDN’T blame China job market on foreigners.

I mentioned high salary range in comparison to local workers, to support that many foreigners made high income relative to local standard. And this is part of the payback. It is just a fact. It is rediculous to take it personally. I didn’t want to limit my income, but I will be considerate to people around me, acknowledging I am somewhat priviledged economically, and I want to use more on local economy to help elevate the life of my fellow countrymen. In fact, 100 times now seems to be the minumum for regional positions, but I do hope it will get narrower quickly. In California, I used to make only 2 times more than the lower income working locals, where society is more sustainable.

-on housing. I mentioned my complex is full of foreingers, just to support that many Chinese cities are becoming hotbed, very attractive to people outside of China for opportunities, quality of life or even retirement. I DIDN’T get distressed by hearing languages I can’t understand in the lift.

Taking permanent immigration is another issue. as a country with limited resources, environmental issues inflated by polluting industry outsourcing and huge population, it is just not feasible to take much immigration, no matter how much foreigners like to settle here permanently. This is vastly different from America was founded on immigration. Try immigrate to other densely populated countries. Speculator is one major reason why housing is sky-rocketing, domestic speculators are to be blamed mostly, but also foreigners. There are countless of them from Korea and other countries owning many. That is why the new law on one housing per foreigner is a good step.

Using tax record of foreign companies operating China to document their local profitability is as reliable as proof of ‘weapon of mass destruction’. We all know the various tax scheme, transfer pricing (both import and export), expat cost and even China’s old tax incentive; which investors ‘smartly’ employed or took advantage of. Most of Amcham members report they are profitable through unanimous survey. Of course there are always business losing money, anywhere in the world, but why? Especially sitting on the second largest consumer market.

Again when I stated many facts, and I did not do it to point fingers but try to present a broader pictures from local perspective. If you can’t take facts, or have my-way-or-highway attitude to stay in your box, then pity for your travel experience.

I am also free to choose wherever I want to live in Asia. I chose China for good value on living and being closer to my extended family. People vote with feet, it is just natural for you, for me and for those Chinese you mentioned going abroad to increase marketabilities. I hope your China experience can enhance your marketability, not just on resume, but also on cross-culture thinking.

Again back to where it all started, the visa enforcement is a natural step to 1)enforce the existing law, 2) stop the already obvious visa-abuse, loopholes and illegal immigration trend. It is plain simple- if you want to work in China, get a Z-visa; if visiting, get a visitor visa.

I do support better communication, plus giving a provision on foreigners holding HK/Macau permanent ID to facilitate their travel. My friend in Switzerland just said it was pretty easy for him to get a tourist visa in Bern last week( not to mention it is 10 times easier than for me to Switzerland before), so he can come to Sichuan to offer help on relief effort.

– Richard-
I am very diappointed on your recent remark- why is stating fact mean-spirited and dumb? Is any part of my comment not true?

July 6, 2008 @ 4:21 pm | Comment

Quoted from the lead report:”Chinese authorities acknowledged putting new visa restrictions in place in May — after foreign embassies reported fewer visas being granted and tighter, sometimes seemingly arbitrary, restrictions. The government did not release guidelines detailing the changes in policy; it often does not. But a foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, said in May that they would be temporary.”

Chen, people were “surprised” because the action was abrupt (the government did not announce the restrictions), without explanation (no guidelines) and apparently fickle, yet I never denied this or any government’s right to control entry but can reasonably question just what the hell they’re doing. I did not enter this discussion until Chen came along with a range of statements, explicit or implict, that visa restrictions would improve the job market, relieve housing speculation, that foreigners were taking advantage of hard-working locals, and that salaries were disproportionate and unjust. I did not manipulate your comments, I addressed them.

You say, “I hope your China experience can enhance your marketability, not just on resume, but also on cross-culture thinking.” Chen, I’m near the end of my worklife and don’t need future marketability, and after 40-odd years among the Chinese in several countries on two continents, the last seven years living in Shanghai in the apartment I own, your suggestion I’d benefit from cross-cultural thinking is presumptuous.

Chen, more than two years ago I attended a mainland China internet translation site for about two months until a few people discovered by my English that in fact I was a foreigner. After three days of hounding and abuse I simply had to leave. Other “foreigners” (yes, Europeans and North Americans) educated in Chinese have had similar experiences, so I’m not the one you should lecture about cross-cultural thinking. Like many Chinese you immediately assume anyone unlike you knows nothing about you or simply can’t understand. That still makes me angry.

July 6, 2008 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

Scott-

You ‘assembled’ all those statements that visa would ease housing, employment,salary, etc; not me. You twisted my comments, can’t you see even now? All I was saying is the visa policy is with good intention, will enforce the existing regulation, reduce visa abuse, filter skillset that China really needs, let alone security filtering. I repeatedly said it needs improvement, better communication, yet you conveniently continued to ignore all my main points, preferring to twist and pick fight.
-I cited the salary gap just to show foreigners generally benefitted a lot from China’s economic progress, I didn’t say it is unjust. So it is not a one-way contribution.
-You started housing price discussion. I agreed it is more due to domestic speculation, but foreign participation could be eased by the 1-year-old new restriction, which will help in general.
– China is not a country can handle immigration- it has too much domestic issues related to resource restraints to deal with already. Pity for all of the ‘misery’ to endure that there is no clear/easy path to P.R.

I am sympathetic with your departure from the internet
site, but I have no idea on your assumption made on me. On the contrary, you assumes a lot.

So much for the weekend- sense of failure on communication.

July 6, 2008 @ 7:30 pm | Comment

Chen, the reason I said it was mean-spirited and stupid were these words of yours:

I do hate those ‘Speaking English’ attitude- returned Chinese are not a whole talented bunch anymore- many lacking necessary skills and went overseas with money because could not compete at home in the first place. My overseas experience did broadened my perspective, while I also contributed to American and European economy, paying above average taxes, with limited social benefit, spending, etc. Professional marketability is a natural drive-otherwise, did you come to China because of a demotion?

That struck me as pretty mean-spirited and pretty dumb.

July 6, 2008 @ 8:00 pm | Comment

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