I live in Shanghai for 12 years. In the 12 years, many things changes. I am happy to witness one of the most dynamic city in the world in the last 10 years. Among all the changes, the biggest one is there are more and more people from other countries trying to seek jobs in Shanghai. If you ask me, I never thought about it 10 years ago.
20 Years Ago
China has closed its door to the international world for too long. For the whole generation, people know very few from outside. In 1980’s, I saw the propaganda posters in the dining room with my own eyes that says:
It is serious crime to listen to foreign radio stations
Yes. It was posted in the dining room. At that time, if someone was caught for listening to foreign radio stations, he/she will be big trouble, risking for losing live.
20 years ago, world outside China seems as far as the moon. It seems impossible to step out of the country for the whole life, I thought.
Going out is Easier
10 years ago, going out of China is easier. As the communist fever fade out, people realize they are also a human instead of a soldier (ready to scarify his life at any time for a belief). That is dramatic change.
The first generation of students to other countries were sent out in early 1980s. In late 1990s, going abroad is much easier, although it is still far from many people’s imagination.
5 Years Ago, Top Positions are for Foreigners
The next big move is getting into China. With the dramatic economic change, the situation in the job market changes.
At the very beginning, only CEOs, and managers position of foreigner companies were held by foreigners (including people from Hong Kong and Taiwan, since they have completely different social system, background, and skills than local Chinese). They are over-paid in a low living cost market – this is what the market tells us – the rare is the expensive. The impression of any foreigner who has a Shanghai job means he is really, really rich.
Recently, More Broad Job Market
Recently, more broad job market opens to foreigners. People from around the world, especially people from southeast Asia are moving to Shanghai. I personally know some friends who get their good job in Shanghai, and they are original from Philippines or Malaysia or Singapore.
This is a very good thing. With more open market, more talent can come and build the city, and it is more competitive in this global economy.
I believe there will be a long and sometimes painful process for the local to realize that Shanghai is more international, and competition in job market will be more than pure local. This is good, but I can predict someone will get frustrated about it. When I go to Seattle, I found many taxi drivers come from India and speak not so well English. At that time, I just couldn’t imagine that 10% of taxi drivers are from India. With all due respect to India, I just mean that current people in Shanghai are not even ready to accept people from outside Shanghai to be their taxi driver, not to mention people from another country. If the role is a CEO, maybe, many people accept that, but if it is a more junior role, who knows. Let’s wait and see…
If you ask me, I’d like to welcome talent from all around the world to China, to Shanghai, as long as he/she is a good person, and really work hard to make the world a better place.