Working and Getting a Job in Shanghai

The city's economic success is incongruous considering its previous history as a Maoist hotspot. Hundreds of thousands of villagers were forcefully relocated to rural regions during the Cultural Revolution. But now the city looks to be returning to its origins as an East Asian commercial port and financial centre.

Economic Growth

Thousands of lowài (foreigners) worked in Shanghai's several extraterritorial concessions, governed by colonial powers. Shanghai now leads China's booming economy. The “Gateway to the World” continues to draw foreigners seeking job advancement or immersion in Chinese culture.

Since 2010, Hong Kong, Shanghai's main competitor, has been embarking on a new image campaign. Hong Kong wanted to establish itself as a global asset management and trading hub. As this example of “location branding” shows, Hong Kong is worried enough about Shanghai's growth to justify the money and effort.

In contrast, China's GDP grew 7.7% in 2012, the slowest pace in 13 years. Shanghai established a free-trade zone in 2013, but its influence on the Chinese economy is uncertain.

China's Economy

The pharmaceutical, automotive, and petrochemical sectors grew significantly in 2013. However, the steel, electronics, and heavy machinery sectors dropped. Shanghai was phasing out labor-intensive sectors owing to reduced foreign demand and industrial restructuring. Founders, investors, executives, and workers are more focused on future development sectors like finance and technology.

The whole Pudong area, where many expatriates work, was named a SEZ in 1993. They are both in Pudong, a popular location for expats working in Shanghai.

The harbor has been a mainstay of Shanghai's economy for decades. In the late 1600s, it became one of China's most significant ports. Shanghai is China's and the world's largest container port. Another motivation to work in Shanghai is the profusion of trade.

Jobs in Shanghai

Employers ask many expats in Shanghai to relocate. However, looking for work in Shanghai alone might be challenging. Nowadays, knowing English isn't enough; you also need to know Chinese and understand Chinese culture. Usually, you must be an expert in your subject. If you don't already have a personal expat network in China, there are various ways to get employment in Shanghai.


Recent AmCham and German AHK Shanghai job postings include financial controller, plant operations manager, supply quality engineer, sales manager, and professional interpreter.

From this sample, it seems that it is preferable to have specific expertise in technology or business administration and then polish it with Chinese language and cultural competence. Professional credentials in marketing, sales, finance, consulting, IT, engineering, and new technology are definitely preferred than academic degrees in Chinese Studies or Intercultural Communications.


Many multinationals and foreign-invested companies utilize English as a working language. So although certain job descriptions may need Chinese fluency, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the language.

Even though they aren't stated in the job description, language abilities may provide you a major competitive edge. While you may not require them every day, they will help you communicate with your Chinese coworkers and business connections. Moreover, the better your Chinese, the more jobs you may apply for.


Shanghainese Chinese is the most widespread dialect of the Wu Chinese linguistic group. As a result, it is not mutually intelligible with Cantonese (Hong Kong), Min Dong (Fujian), or Mandarin (Beijing).

When the PRC was founded in 1949, Beijing named Standard Mandarin the official language. This caused diglossia (the simultaneous use of two languages) among Shanghai residents. Later, with the flood of both Chinese migrants and foreign nations, Shanghainese were almost forgotten. Recent efforts to preserve and promote the local Wu dialect have revived attention, and you may hear the odd localized colloquialism on the street.

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