Learn Chinese in China
Apollys

Working In China

15 posts in this topic

I will be getting my degree in computer science soon and I am looking into working in Beijing (as a programmer of some sort) for a year or two starting ideally in the summer or fall of this year.  I was wondering if people with more experience or knowledge with this type of thing could tell me: is this feasible, and if so, what are all the hoops I have to jump through in terms of visas, bank accounts, and anything else?

 

I really have no knowledge in this area, so any information or references to useful sources would be much appreciated.

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The good news is that Beijing is something of a tech hub and many of China's major tech firms have their offices there.

 

It's definitely possible to find work as a programmer, however there are a couple of things to be aware of.  Firstly, you'll need a Z-visa, but it might not be possible to get this unless you have a minimum of 2 years work experience first.  Secondly you'll need to ask what you can bring to the table that thousands of qualified Chinese IT graduates can't.  China is very strong in IT education, you only need to look at the number of papers written with Chinese authors to see that.  "Native English speaker" with US education won't be enough.  Many of the people you'll be competing with will also have a US education (on top of their Chinese one) and will have good enough English and native Chinese.

 

My advice would be to graduate, then get some work experience in the US, preferably in a field that is 'hot' in China and then take your skills there.  Things that come to mind are things like machine learning and AI, especially with regards to natural language processing (both text and speech) and also computer vision.  Computer graphics is probably another field, as is distributed computing/networking.

 

Baidu has a github page with a bunch of open source projects.  Other big Chinese tech companies probably do also.  So maybe look there to see if any of their projects interest you and start getting involved with them.  It'll be much easier to convince a company to hire you if you've been submitting pull-requests to their projects for a couple of years.

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Funny that you should mention those topics, as AI is my specialty.  And I'm going to be spending the first half of this year working on machine learning and natural language processing (probably part time this quarter and full time after that).

 

As for what I have that others wouldn't, honestly I think my education is far above the average CS fresh graduate (regardless of country of graduation), given my extensive mathematical background which has granted me a deep understanding of algorithms and concepts, in addition to my own desire to learn and understand as much as I can rather than to simply get a good grade in the class.  Additionally, I would say that compared to the vast, vast majority of people out there, I have a far superior ability to adapt algorithms to new situations and develop solutions to completely new problems.  This is a skill I've been strengthening all my life.  But can I put this in a resume?  Not really.

 

I was also worried about the issue you raised with Z-visas after my own preliminary research.  Unfortunately for me, my motivation to work in China isn't simply that I think it would be cool to experience and I would like to do it sometime in the future.  I'm looking to do it because my girlfriend lives in Beijing (getting some work experience under her belt before she tries to apply for a master's program and/or job in the US), and frankly being apart for so long sucks.  If the two year thing is going to apply to me, then oh well, c'est la vie, but if there's anything I can do, I've gotta give it a shot.

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And I'm going to be spending the first half of this year working on machine learning and natural language processing

 

There are plenty of interesting applications and problems to solve in this space for the Chinese language, so there lots of potential there.  Both Baidu and Microsoft Research are doing lots of interesting work in these areas.

 

 

 

Additionally, I would say that compared to the vast, vast majority of people out there, I have a far superior ability to adapt algorithms to new situations and develop solutions to completely new problems.

The vast, vast majority of people out there? Statistically speaking you are not wrong, considering there are 7+ billion people in the world, but then you're not competing against the vast, vast majority of people for these jobs.  You're competing against people who also have superior ability to adapt algorithms to new situations and develop solutions to completely new problems, and who may also have extensive mathematical backgrounds, and who have also been strengthening these skills their entire lives (the competition to get in to elite Chinese universities is intense).

 

 

 

But can I put this in a resume?  Not really.

You can, but not with words, you show it with the things you have accomplished and achieved and the projects you have worked on/developed by yourself.

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There is campus recruitment in China, as well as opportunities to start your own business. Since you are not studying in China, you cannot participate.

However, you can try to see if you can find anything here:

爱奇艺

http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/DCYLnAU5MVY3G5IOvrCpgg

特斯拉

http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/0EtIHJKgH3Z9LGgHo_y1fA

AI companies in Hangzhou

http://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/ACMDilg3fLYKtA9qHjDlww

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last link is for reference only

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Why not go as a chinese language student? it gets you there, gives you China experience and you would be with your gf. Take 1/2 years learning chinese,you will also be on the ground and will be able to network possible work in your chosen subject.

 

Just a thought :)

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imron, maybe I didn't put in enough "vasts" to get my point across, haha. And I disagree that computer scientists have been spending their entire lives developing problem solving skills. Most of them started that in college, if at all. It's peffectly reasonable to graduate with a 4.0 and not have much creative problem solving skill at all.

Shelley, that sounds cool, how does that work? Do I have to get into a university there? And am I going to be able to get myself some stable income as well? I can't really justify to myself asking my parents to fund me to live in China for a year or two.

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You could apply for a scholarship.

 

There seems to be many opportunities for fully funded scholarships but I know nothing about all that but there are countless topics on Chinese Forums about it, I am sure you could find out.

 

Or ask a specific question in a new topic.

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There are more scholarship opportunities for degree programs, the language studies you mentioned are not the preferred choice when it comes to awarding scholarships. You can always pay for a language course. Things are changing. On the other hand, it is easier to come and work in China, work visa procedures are undergoing changes in order to make it easier.

I suggest you to visit China for a week or so. Set up interviews (or meetings) online, visit Beijing, try to get an offer. If you do, go back to school and do the work visa paperwork, then move to Beijing as soon as possible.

You can try to make a short trip before making any major commitments.

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And I disagree that computer scientists have been spending their entire lives developing problem solving skills

That's good, because I didn't say that :mrgreen:

 

I was talking about the Chinese graduates that will be competing with you for jobs in the Chinese IT sector.  If they've gone to an elite Chinese university (and maybe also an elite US one also), it is likely that they have spent the majority of their lives since kindergarten working towards it, and beat out around 10 million of their fellow classmates graduating high school in their same year level to get there (edit: here's a link with some statistics).  Vast, vast, vast, vast, vast (I added a few more that you thought were missing) intellect and problem solving skills aren't necessarily going to be enough to make you stand out.

 

 

 

Do I have to get into a university there?

Getting in to a university won't be a problem if you're just doing a language course.  You basically pay the fee and get accepted.

 

 

 

And am I going to be able to get myself some stable income as well? I can't really justify to myself asking my parents to fund me to live in China for a year or two.

That's a problem you'll need to devote some of your vast skills to solve :mrgreen:   As Shelley mentioned, scholarships are also a possibility, though they are competitive.  Do a forums search for CSC scholarships (there's a new topic for them every year).

 

If you're a capable programmer, it should also be possible to fund your studies with remote work.  The going rate for a good developer and the relatively low cost of living in China should enable you to support yourself on a handful of hours a week.  With the exception of my own software, the majority of my income comes from remote software development work.

 

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imron:

 

"You're competing against people who also have superior ability to adapt algorithms to new situations and develop solutions to completely new problems, and who may also have extensive mathematical backgrounds, and who have also been strengthening these skills their entire lives (the competition to get in to elite Chinese universities is intense)."

 

...

 

 

Anyway, I don't really care, but I do think you've directly contradicted yourself.  As to the more important stuff, what you said at the end sounds promising.  One of my professors from last quarter offered to contract me out to work in China if that's possible (I don't think either of us really know the details of how this works), so maybe I should consider doing something like that while getting a student visa studying Chinese in Beijing?  Can I work for a US company while living in China? Will there be any issues with that?

 

 

And Angelina, that is what I'm planning at the moment.  I just hope I can figure something out and get back there soon after my vacation is over.

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but I do think you've directly contradicted yourself

I'm not sure where the contradiction in that quote is.  My point is that if you're competing against local Chinese graduates for positions in Chinese tech firms, it's fairly safe to assume these people are also at the top of their game with regards to ability and talent and the field for those jobs will be more level than you might imagine.

 

Will there be any issues with that?

Depends on the company and how often they require you to come in to the office :mrgreen:

 

If you can find a company that would happily let you work 100% of the time from home in the US, then there is really no problem where you are, assuming you have decent internet access.  You'll be a U.S. citizen, employed by a U.S. company, being paid in U.S. dollars to your U.S. bank account and paying U.S. taxes as per normal.

 

The fact that you are temporarily in China won't make a huge difference, and although China does make a tax claim on foreigners for work performed in China, no-one's going to be monitoring you and if you don't self report, no-one's going to care about a single freelance programmer.

 

Assuming the visa issue is sorted because you'll be studying, the bigger problem is finding someone that is willing to let you work 100% remotely, and also having decent Internet connection in China.  Even the timezone difference won't be much of an issue.  There's good enough overlap between Beijing morning and West Coast US afternoon that if you're working for a West Coast company you can have meetings in your morning, then work on stuff during the day, and then when you are sleeping your employer/client can be checking that day's work, and have feedback and comments ready for you when you wake up and have the next day's meeting.

 

Going with the professor is one option, and it sounds like that could work out quite well in terms of flexibility, but keep in mind other options as the rate of pay is likely to be significantly greater in the private sector.  Even junior programmers can command $80-$100 an hour if you know your stuff, more if you have a specialisation with the right technologies.

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Great, I'm starting to see some glimmers of hope!  I don't really care how much money I make, it's more important to me that I'm working on intellectually stimulating projects and can go home to the girl I love.  But of course, I would be lying if I said I wouldn't take some joy in having a bit more money to throw around.  So I'll definitely keep that in mind.  (Also, by working for my professor, I mean working for the company the he is the founder of - so it is a real job and probably will have a decent enough salary).

 

I assume if I choose this route, the first thing I'll want to think about is getting a good VPN, if anyone has suggestions about this and/or what to expect and do in general with respect to the internet censorship there, that would be nice to hear.  And even if I just end up staying there now and again for vacation, it's definitely something I should consider.

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I don't really care how much money I make, it's more important to me that I'm working on intellectually stimulating projects and can go home to the girl I love

I agree that working on intellectually stimulating projects is important, but also keep in mind it's a tradeoff for your time.  Sometimes it can be worth taking a small amount of highly paid but mind-numbing work to free up time for more interesting pursuits.

 

the first thing I'll want to think about is getting a good VPN

If you have any sysadmin experience, it's not too difficult to set up your own VPN or proxy, and digital ocean boxes can be had for as little as $5 a month.  That what I have used with good success when I was in China and when I visit (do a forums search and you should be able to find the threads discussing this).  The VPN situation is always somewhat fluid though.  What's good today, might not be good tomorrow.  It's definitely worth sorting out before you leave, but you can probably hold off making a decision until a couple of weeks before you depart.

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