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Excerpted from the China Career Guide

Cost of Living

Quality of life standards for the entire population in China are a relatively recent and hard-won phenomenon. The most concrete evidence of improved standards is the dramatic increase in the average national life expectancy, rising from approximately 45 years in 1960 to more than 75 years today. But perhaps no measure is more dramatic than the country’s growing purchasing power, which is about 9,800 USD per person, ranking among the top half of all countries.

Expatriates rank China first in income and wealth, and fifth in satisfaction with the local economy. There are excellent job opportunities, and most expats relocate to advance their careers. In fact, China is a “hotspot for higher earners,” with 25 percent earning more than 300,000 USD a year, according to HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey.


Housing remains the largest cost for expatriates in China. In spite of a recent drop in prices, demand for expat housing still remains strong, and it is keeping rents high.

Most expatriates rent their homes. In cities, expats live in high-rise city center apartment buildings or in expat neighborhoods. As is true elsewhere, housing closer to the center of a city is more expensive than housing on the outskirts. Rents in second-tier cities, such as Wenzhou and Dongguan, are far below those in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai.


Vehicles in mainland China and Taiwan drive on the right, while in Hong Kong, traffic keeps to the left. China’s newly constructed highway system enables travel between the main cities, but the quality of roads throughout the country remains poor. A large portion of roads in China are still ‘village roads,’ i.e., gravel, improved earth standard or merely earth tracks.

Rail is the major mode of inter-city transportation in China.

Medical Care and Health Insurance

Most employers offer private health insurance for expatriate employees. In lieu of that it is important to purchase private health insurance.

Major cities have private medical facilities to treat foreigners. Generally, these facilities handle minor emergencies and routine medical care for adults and children, childbirth and routine surgeries. Some hospitals have wings staffed by Western-trained doctors to treat expats.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete China Guide.

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