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Advice on "confronting" Chinese boss on a major issue.


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But I absolutely must go home by the beginning of June.

No. You are CHOOSING to go home. You made a commitment. Honor it. Consider it part of the pre-marriage preparation that you say is important.

Maybe have him come here and be involved maybe - stay in the same town as you, have deep conversations about the future, create a bonding experience. Your China experience won't just be a story for him - it would be his experience as well. And the plane ticket wouldn't be wasted. (Counseling over skype/video?)

You seem intelligent and you knew the terms. Accept responsibility for your choices, and if you incurr the maximum penalty so be it. You hope not to, and I hope you don't either, but part of the reasons for penalties are to ensure you don't bail. With just 30 days left it makes it difficult to offer a full-time position to take over and they will have to use existing staff or hire more expensive part-timers (which wouldn't be legal). You are hoping good behavior mitigates some of the penalty, and maybe it should (I think so). But don't hold a technicality over them to break a commitment you know in your heart to be valid.

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Part 1 (silly work buffer limit)

Sorry I am late to this conversation but I have some thoughts, (having been a teacher also since 2001).

On the contract- The key point of the contract is whether it was stamped with the school's seal (or Zhang). If it was a plain signature of the principal it is not easily enforceable.

On how to deal with the admin.

The chinese people are practical. If you leave how much /many classes will they have to cover while you're gone. If you can think of and provide a solution for their problem when you tell them of it it will go smoother.

-So find out how much class you will actually miss. Some classes end at the end of May so it may not be that many.

-See if there is a way you can give extra classes in advance or on the weekend to your students, so you can fullfill your contract hour'y requirement and still leave on time.

This may mean also giving your exam early. (some teachers and students like that as it will leave more time for final exam cramming)

-Check around for other westerners who could take your job for the short time. If they plan on staying next year , the Chinese school might like that as it shows one less teacher they have to source for next semester.

Part 2

I have also been at schools where the western teachers were thought of as mascots and not much care was taken that they missed a week or two of classes.

Another one where they negotiated with the the other teachers to take their classes, and were paid by the absent teacher and the the admin was none the wiser.

I have had colleagues use all three methods to leave early or go away and come back for a family emergency or just holidays.

I think as a last result just say it is a family emergency and your grandmother is sick. Is a legitimate excuse to go back. (whereas a wedding, might be seen as suspicious and they would want you to come back soon after..)

This is a common issue, think practically.

Good luck,


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Thanks again for the various advice pouring in. The people who anticipated their reaction to be finding a replacement for myself hit the nail on the head. The first meeting was inconclusive, as I expected, as I know the administration needs to digest my decision and also prepare their rebuttals. What the director was willing to disclose was the need to find a replacement.

Incidentally, Simon, the contract which I suspect is fake and invalid that I signed from last year did not have a seal anywhere on it. The new, more official looking duplicate handed to me a few months ago does have the seal.

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According to Chinese contract law, a signature is as good as a seal, and both are equally valid. For traditional reasons as well as misconceptions about the law, people think that a seal is necessary when signing contracts, although technically it's not.

One practical use of the seal however is that it confirms the person signing the contract has the authority to represent the company/institution they are signing for, which may or may not be an issue, depending on the person who signed the contract.

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In terms of contract law, what is the meaning of the phrase "Copies are Invalid?" I haven't seen anyone address this thorn in my side since many people at first got the impression my "first" contract was a local, school-customized appendix and my "second" contract was the state contract, a completely different matter. But that's not the case.

If I have a bound, watermarked, and numbered SAFEA-stamped booklet contract that has "Copies are Invalid" and "复制无效" written prominently on it, and I have a second contract printed from the dell printer down the hall across from the kitchen the day of the signing, which is an exact duplicate (that is, copy, as in "copies are invalid") of the first except that someone had gone into Microsoft Word and deleted entire paragraphs outlining the employers' liability AND the notice about copies being invalid in both languages (which really raises the question, why were these parts deleted), does the legal phrase "Copies are Invalid" on the first contract apply to the second contract, which is not only a copy but a dubiously tampered-with duplicate?

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No. You are CHOOSING to go home. You made a commitment. Honor it. Consider it part of the pre-marriage preparation that you say is important.

Self-taught-MBA, I just want to state on the record that I always raise an eyebrow when someone speaks as if he is familiar with the whole situation... over the internet. I've made the decision, and my post was asking for cultural advice on how to deal with confrontations - not for people to make moral protestations against a decision I already made. I do understand the sense of "the best way to handle a confrontation is to avoid it in the first place," but do you think I'm really so dumb as to not have considered that route? The decision has been made, and there are a whole array of reasons why things have to be done NOW which I decided not to divulge in this post and you are not aware of (and therefore, I think, are not entitled to help me define what "honor" is and tell me what I "know" in my heart). I feel no obligation to divulge my personal details to the anonymous internet because I'm a little ticked at someone making moral judgements with a woefully incomplete set of facts (I provided the facts I believed necessary for people to address the reason I posted in the first place - how to handle the already unleashed situation, I did not post enough information for people to try to get me to question my own moral fiber and sense of honor). However, let's just say that the necessity and immediacy of the decision and the marriage proposal had something to do with military service. Okay? Okay. Jeez.

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That being said, the use and reliance on contracts is still in its infancy in China compared to the west, and likewise contracts are not always seen in the same light and are often interpreted rather loosely. In my experience with the Chinese teaching system, I found that usually the worst way to try and resolve any problem was to brandish a contract saying "my contract says this... my contract says that". Things will probably go a lot better in any negotiations if you make your case based on your current needs, rather than trying to show that the contract you have is invalid.

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HI Entropy-Rising,

As someone planning a wedding as well I can related to difficulty of dealing with issues, and the need to put serious time into the planning and organization. Sorry about Self-taught-MBA, we sometimes get extreme posters (or grumbling expats like on other forums , so this might of been a bit of a reflex action, either way sorry about that). Things happen and you have to go sometimes to deal with them. That's life and people shouldn't make judgements on crucial events that come up.

On getting a replacement you might want to try Dave's ESL cafe, or posting messages in the local university or student BBS's. A lot of people's visas are running out this summer and if you school can provide a Z visa for a summer's worth of teaching or even a semester's worth it could be worth it for some people. Foreign student dorms are also places putting up flyers or information about the job opportuinity could be good.

If you find the replacement , the school would be unlikely to mess with your return airfair or end of year bonus as you could tell the new teacher and they wouldn't start.

Good luck,


P>s. hebei is not to far from BJ so look at some BJ sites for advertising the job as well.

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