6 Things to Ask for During Contract Negotiations in China

6 Things to Ask for During Contract Negotiations in China
Dec 12, 2019 By Cian Dineen , eChinacities.com

Contract negotiations are tricky in any country; they can be a constant game of bluff between employee and employer. While you don’t want to undervalue yourself, you also don’t want to miss out on a job you want. All these difficulties are only amplified during contract negotiations in China. Not only can language and cultural barriers be a problem, but perhaps most importantly, there are specific considerations to think about when taking a job in China. Below are six of the most important points to consider.

Health insurance

Many China expats come from countries where healthcare is a universal right. While China has its own form of social healthcare, you may find yourself in a situation where you want a more specialized, or least an English-speaking, service. However, premium healthcare in China is expensive, so commercial health insurance is a boon if you can get it.

Although not every company offers it, it’s not uncommon for Chinese employers to provide foreign workers with commercial health insurance. Even if it’s not a standard in the company, you can push for it during contract negotiations, especially if it’s a perk you enjoyed at your previous job. If your new employer refuses, try asking for the equivalent cost to be spread out over your monthly salary. If it’s important for you and they want you, this cherry on top of your contract shouldn’t be a deal breaker.


There was a time 10 to 15 years ago when renting in China was cheap. You could get a three-bedroom apartment in the city center surrounded by bars and restaurants for a fraction of what you would pay for a tiny place in the biggest cities in the West. Unfortunately, rental prices in China’s top tier cities have caught up with those in Europe and America. Now more than ever, it’s important to discuss accommodation during contract negotiations in China.

Once upon a glorious time, many foreign workers in China would be on cushy expat packages where their company would pay for an apartment regardless of the cost. These days, such golden tickets are few and far between. What is more realistic and attainable in modern day China is either a modest accommodation allowance in your contract or a place in company digs.

In regards to accommodation allowance, employees can be looking at anything from 1,000 to 4,000 RMB towards their rent. Company accommodation, on the other hand, may mean a room in a dormitory at its worst or, if you’re lucky, a shared apartment in a complex your company works with.

Whatever your job or salary, do your upmost during contract negotiations to have your accommodation covered. Otherwise, it’s going to be a huge drain on your finances, and if your salary doesn’t increase at least at the same rate as rental prices you’re effectively taking a pay cut.

Flights home

Flights home can be expensive, especially when you’re traveling during national holidays. It’s not uncommon for airfares to jump to twice or three times the normal price during these periods. If you’re traveling with China-based family members, it can easily eat up as much as a whole month’s salary.

It’s not unreasonable then – particularly if your employer is not providing annual leave outside of national holidays – to ask your company to cover the cost of at least one flight home per year. A lot of Chinese companies are beginning to appreciate the importance of making sure their foreign staff are settled and happy if they are to become longterm and integral parts of the team.

Having a flight allowance in black and white in your contract will save you a ton of money, and at the very least remind you to visit your poor neglected parents/friends once in a while.

Extra holiday days

Depending on where you come from, the annual leave on offer at Chinese companies might come as a bit of a culture shock. As most European countries have at least three or four weeks of annual leave guaranteed, coming to China, where the average outside of national holidays is one to five days, can take a bit of getting used to.

It never hurts to ask for more, however, as many Chinese companies will try to meet foreigners halfway with maybe 10 days of leave. That being said, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get those extra days. While Chinese companies don’t provide many paid annual leave days, most companies are okay with foreign employees taking extended unpaid leave for a week or two. That is of course assuming you give plenty of advanced notice and organize your work while you’re away.

Annual bonus

This is sometimes an area where foreigners miss a trick, especially those that are new to China. In the West, an annual – or “Christmas” – bonus is something you might get in certain industries if you’re lucky, but it’s not usually expected or a massive amount of money.

In China, however, the annual bonus is something that almost all workers expect, and the amount dished out increases wildly if the company has a good year. It’s usually at the very least one month’s salary, although some tech companies have been known to pay anything from half a year to a full year’s wages out at Chinese New Year.

Annual bonuses are a big deal in China, so don’t go through contract negotiations without discussing them. Get a clear idea of what the normal range is and, if possible, get something down in writing.

Signing bonus

While signing bonuses are not super common in China, they may be an option if you’ve been headhunted while working at another company or if you’re re-signing a contract with an existing company.

It’s a possibility when you’re being headhunted for two main reasons. One, the company has approached you so they clearly value you. Two, if they’re asking you to leave another company, you might be forfeiting the annual bonus you would have received at Chinese New Year.

It’s an option when re-signing a contract because foreigners in China who have shown they’re hardworking and will stay at a company for a long period are a valued and rare commodity. It’s cheaper for the company to give you a bonus for staying than it is to go through the lottery of recruiting a new foreigner and the hassle of starting the lengthy visa process anew.

What else should you look out for in contract negotiations in China? Drop your suggestions in the comment box below.

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Keywords: contract negotiations in China


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Also be careful if significant portions of your salary are in the form of bonuses that can easily be dismissed.

Jun 25, 2021 08:52 Report Abuse



You can also ask for referrals from those working there currently or previously. A photo of the place you will get can be helpful; at least you can see if the "apartment" is actually a studio and whether the bathroom has a western toilet. You still may get a bait-and-switch, so be ready for it.

Jun 25, 2021 08:49 Report Abuse



Avoid "Expert international Education" with jobs in Xiamen/ Fuzhou. This article is a blueprint of all the problems my wife had with this company and I ended up having to spend a lot of time and money getting her out of there. Avoid. This is a great article to guide you though the process of negotiations, but they often don't add or negotiate very flexibly.

Dec 29, 2019 16:58 Report Abuse



Chinese law requires the work location and the working hours to be in the contract. Schools often include only vague statements in contracts, such as arrive 15 minutes before the first class and stay 10 minutes after the last class. Additionally, make sure to specify breaks and lunch time in the contracts. In many instances, schools expand working hours. Instead of working 8 hours a day, you will find yourself working 10, 12, or 14 hour days as you will be asked to cover night studies, to run clubs or to meet students at lunch, to teach at nights when students have to study for Chinese tests during the day, to work on the weekend at recruiting events, and to work seven days a week when schools make up days missed. If you do not have specific times and locations in the contract, expect to be taken advantage of.

Dec 25, 2019 14:22 Report Abuse