How to Quit Your Job in China Without Drama

How to Quit Your Job in China Without Drama
Mar 24, 2022 By Jessica A. Larson-Wang ,

Taking and quitting jobs in fast succession, a phenomenon known as “tiao cao” is pretty common in China, especially among young people who tend to get very badly paid in entry level positions. Foreigners working in China cannot typically afford to be so blasé about quitting, however. Here are some things to consider before you quit your job in China.

quit job in China

Don’t Pull a Runner

Unfortunately for those of us who like a dramatic exit, quitting your job in China isn’t as simple as flipping the boss the bird and storming out. You should never “pull a runner,” (that is, quit without notice) in China unless the circumstances are such that you absolutely cannot tolerate working there for one more moment.

Although breaking your contract isn’t always the end of the world, you should certainly avoid it if you can. Quitting suddenly because you find the workload too heavy or you simply don’t much care for the job is irresponsible. Not only could it affect your visa status and your ability to find employment in the same industry or city in the future, it could also make life harder for the next person who takes on the role. Your former employer will naturally be wary of the same thing happening again and may even be reluctant to hire foreigners in the future.

There are a few circumstances when giving your employer notice before you leave is not a good idea, however. For example, if you feel you’re in danger or you have found yourself in an exploitative or illegal situation. Unless your circumstances are dire though, do the right thing by your employer, your colleagues and those who may follow in your wake.

Temper Your Honesty

If your employer is Chinese, it’s more than likely that he/she will feel a loss of face if you tell them you’re leaving the job because you hate the work or the way the company is run. While I’m not suggesting you outright lie, it might be a good idea to come up with a face-saving reason for leaving. “I want to spend more time with my family,” or “I want to concentrate on learning Chinese,” for example. Avoid saying you’re returning to your home country unless you’re fairly certain you’ll not run into your boss around town, however.

Similarly, if you’re a teacher, it’s probably not a good idea to tell your students you’re leaving unless your employer expressly says it’s okay. While you may feel bad about not saying goodbye, it’s the school’s responsibility to tell them you’ve left. What’s more, the students may have a lot of questions that you’re not prepared to answer.

If you and your employer have had previous conflicts, a messy parting may seem inevitable. But if possible, try to be the bigger person and leave without a bang.

Don’t Forget the Paper Work

And there’s good reason why you don’t want to leave with a bang. When you leave a job as a foreigner in China, you need a release letter from your employer in order to legally transfer your residence and work permit to a new company or a different type of visa. While employers are legally obligated to provide you with a release letter, if you quit suddenly or leave on bad terms, they may drag their feet.

The release letter offers an angry employer an opportunity to be spiteful and vindictive, a situation you want to avoid. Even if you’re planning to return home and therefore don’t need to transfer your visa to a new company, if you have a good relationship with your employer, they may be happy to help you transfer your residence permit to a tourist visa to give you some time to travel before you go. Even better, they may turn a blind eye to any time left on your residence permit.

Get Your House in Order Before You Go

If possible, give notice so your last day of work will be on or near a payday and don’t leave China until you’ve been paid everything that’s due to you, including bonuses. Once you leave the country, collecting unpaid salary can become very difficult. The majority of employers don't set out to cheat their employees, but you don’t want to give them an easy opportunity to do so.

Obviously, if you pull a runner and leave without notice, your employer is likely to withhold your last month’s salary as a penalty for breach of contract. Not only is there little you can do about this, but your employer is actually legally entitled to this money if your contract includes a breach of contract clause. Note that if you’re fired without just cause or if it’s the employer who breaches the contract, you may also be entitled to some extra money. Collecting this money from abroad, however, will be easier said than done.

If you’re living in accommodation provided by your school or company, try to get another place lined up before you give notice. Your employer may be kind and allow you to stay until they replace you, but that could be sooner than you think.

All in all, quitting your job in China without drama is totally do-able and absolutely ideal. Leaving with a clean slate and all your bridges in tact will make securing your next job easier and ensure your employer has no excuse to deny you what’s due. While quitting with a bang may be initially satisfying, doing the grown-up thing will serve you better in the long run.

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All comments are subject to moderation by staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.


Hi, I am not an expat but I am working (abot to leave) for a Chines company in Spain. I wonder if someona can tell me what is the SEVERANCE PAY TERM in China. I mean, some money is owed to me for the proportional part of the month not yet paid plus some expenses that I advanced. In Spain, the severance payment (finiquito) must be paid in a maximum term of 15 days. In some countries is 8 days, 10 days... I've been unable to find which is this term in days in China, Can someone help me? Thanks a lot!

May 11, 2023 22:28 Report Abuse


I totally agree with the above. Just follow this advice and save yourself the headache that comes after

Oct 26, 2022 11:34 Report Abuse


Well to quit is something normal but in the case of China it is better to follow these pieces of advices....

Aug 28, 2022 23:02 Report Abuse


I find this article to be poorly written in some ways but it does contain some useful advice. One thing that really sticks out as poorly written is the following; Obviously, if you pull a runner and leave without notice, your employer is likely to withhold your last month’s salary as a penalty for breach of contract. The author doesn't seem to be very knowledgeable about Chinese employment law. There are many things in a contract, but that doesn't make them legal! There are actually very few instances where the employer can keep the money owed to you. Sure, employers will give you a hassle and offer you paperwork to sign which can create legal issues because you gave up something you did not need to give up and this can be a messy thing and affect how much money you end up with in the end, but it doesn't make it right. Outright holding your money because a clause in the contract says they can is not actually legal simply because it is written in a contract. Contracts have to tell you exactly why and how they can hold your money back and for contracts that have a clause about holding your last pay it is generally illegal to do so. They may hold back money if you put through training and only a certain amount and that amount depends on how long you have worked for the company and if the training was necessary. If the training was provided by the company, then the company must be able to prove the amounts are correct and cannot be an arbitrary amount. If the training is legitimate, then how much they can hold back is determined by a formula in law! Thus once again it cannot be arbitrary. The part about the release letter is also a bit of a sticky issue. If they drag their feet too long, then they can get into trouble. The law does state they must give you a release letter within a certain amount of days. If they don't and you have already gotten a job offer from another employer and this causes you to lose that job, then the company that withheld the release letter is legal responsible to pay for your loss. Yes you will need to legally pursue this as no company is simply going to give it to you just because it says they must. The part about how it could affect the next person who takes your position being harder on them seems to be an emotional ploy. It seems like the author is more on the side of the employer and not truly impartial in their writing. Who really cares how it will affect the next person? Yes, some of do to some degree, but realistically no! The author could have added some important information that is written into the laws here. It could have been mentioned that you do have the right to leave a job without notice under certain circumstances and how those circumstances are important, but was not. There is a famous author and lawyer, named Edgar, in China that gives advice to foreigners about protecting their rights while working here. If this article were written in the same way as how he writes his articles, then it would be truly responsible to the readers. He has WeChat groups anyone can join and should! You will get all the answers there and more that you have but probably didn't know you had! He is not a human rights lawyer, so don't think you can get him to take on some case like that, he won't do it. He only tells you the law as it exists and gives advice about the best way to quit so that it can help you not make a mistake. I also think that if the author had mentioned that if you do have a legitimate reason for leaving then there are ways to get your documents for transferring your work permit by yourself. China has realized, because they are some very great things about this country and how they protect workers, that there was a need to challenge employers that don't do the right thing and a method was needed for foreigners to easily get what they need when the employer is doing the wrong thing! China as a country doesn't want to lose face, remember that being mentioned by the author in regards to companies..., so they made some laws and rules to ensure that bad companies have a harder time these days. The country itself doesn't want to lose face because of bad employers and China should not look bad because of some of the bad people or businessmen here. Hey, by the way, there are bad people and bad businessmen in all countries of the world, so that is not a jab at China. It is really a praise for China because unlike many countries that do have laws protecting workers, China has actually found some ways to ensure that the system doesn't automatically side with the employer first! Need a lawyer, better call Edgar! No I don't work for him, I just appreciate how he has helped the community, as a leader in a community should, because we should all work together to make China and the world better, not take advantage of each other. After all the spirit is about harmony, so harmony is truly created by working together in the right way, not sticking our head in the sand or giving in to bullying tactics by those who have power. We should follow authority, not power. That is the thing many of us miss. We hear people say ignore something for harmony, but the reality is that by ignoring something bad, then this is in no way creating harmony, it is allowing disharmony to continue. Yes, we should find a harmonious way to leave our job if we are unhappy, but letting an employer get away with whatever they want is truly not in the best interest for ourselves. It might make things easier for us to give up something, but we should not give up too much or allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. This is a great country in many ways, let's work together to make it greater every day in the right way.

Apr 12, 2022 14:53 Report Abuse


This is all correct... quite wordy... but correct nonetheless

Apr 12, 2022 22:07 Report Abuse


You have that wechat ID? I'm definitely in need of legal advice....

May 30, 2022 13:33 Report Abuse


China’s labor contract law allows for 3 situations when an employee can terminate a contract. (1) the employer and employee mutually agree to end it. (2) the employee gives 30 days notice. (3) the employee can prove that the employer is violating the law. Obviously, the first option is the best option. It’s always preferred to end on good terms.

Apr 12, 2022 14:48 Report Abuse


Be sure to keep all correpsondence as email evidence and don't tolerate being put-off or delfected when discussing concerns with your employer. Most of all, stick to your guns.

Mar 27, 2022 18:58 Report Abuse


Don't quit your job if you are not progressing. In china there are always better ways to develop your career

Mar 24, 2022 15:51 Report Abuse