It's official, again: Shanghai is Chinese mainland's top city for foreigners

Yang Meiping
Shanghai, for the sixth consecutive year, has topped the list of the most attractive Chinese cities for foreigners.
Yang Meiping

Shanghai, for the sixth consecutive year, has topped the list of the most attractive Chinese mainland’s cities for foreigners, according to a ranking released at the weekend.

The “Charming China — the most attractive Chinese cities in the eyes of foreigners” ranking was launched in 2010 by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs in Beijing.

It is the only ranking in China’s mainland that is voted completely by foreigners in four indexes: expat-friendly policies, governmental administrative capacity, and working and living environments.

“Shanghai is an amazing city for Chinese and non-Chinese residents alike. It displays a sincere appreciation for diversity in so many ways — architectural, linguistic, artistic, culinary, and academic,” said Vice Chancellor of New York University Shanghai Jeffrey Lehman, who has been named one of “The Most Influential Foreign Experts During 40 Years of China’s Reform and Opening-Up.”

“Here we find a cosmopolitan environment where a wide variety of ideas can interact with one another and create new approaches to achieving humanitarian objectives. It is a natural magnet for the curious, a natural bridge from China to the rest of the world,” Lehman said.

In specific, the ranking covers many things related to foreigners, such as recruitment policies, policies that guarantee their rights and interests, support for startups, the working environment, promotion opportunities, salary, governmental service quality, international and multicultural environments, inclusiveness, medical conditions, and the education environment for kids.

This year, the cities that made the top-10 list are: Shanghai, Beijing, Hefei, Qingdao, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Chengdu, Nanjing and Guangzhou.

This year’s ranking was released at the opening ceremony of the 16th Conference on the International Exchange of Professionals in Shenzhen on Saturday night.

It's official, again: Shanghai is Chinese mainland's top city for foreigners

A survey was conducted between November last year and February this year, which was completed by 30,000 foreign professionals throughout China via paper and online voting. A 68-member jury, including Nobel laureates, Chinese Friendship Award recipients, foreign scholars and scientists, selected for the Recruitment Program of Global Experts, also contributed their ideas to the survey.

Four Nobel laureates joined the survey this time, setting a record in its history. They are Dutch physicist Gerardus ’t Hooft, Israeli biochemist Avram Hershko, Israeli material scientist Danny Shechtman, and Dutch-British physicist Andre Geim.

The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs has not released the full details of the survey result yet.

Shanghai has been promoting institutional reform to implement a more active, open and effective policy to attract talent from all over the world. It has issued a series of policies to streamline procedures for foreigners to apply for visas, as well as work and residence permits.

With the improvement of the environment for talent development in Shanghai, the total number of its qualified personnel and high-level professionals has been continuously increasing.

There are 215,000 foreigners working or starting up businesses in Shanghai, accounting for 23.7 percent of the total in Chinese mainland. By the end of March, the city had 52 foreign experts who have won the Chinese government Friendship Award, and 1,145 high-level overseas professionals who have been selected into the national Recruitment Program of Global Experts, topping other areas in the country.

Justin Scholar, a teacher at New York University Shanghai, said he found hospitality woven into both his professional engagements and personal life in Shanghai.

“Smiles everywhere I go. Unthrottled curiosity and basic Chinese lessons come with every conversation I share with strangers,” he added. “My excitement to be here resonates with everyone I meet, and locals have offered every ounce of help they can to help me flourish here.”

Scholar is also setting up a company in the city with a Chinese friend, and said he was surprised that the process is so convenient.

“My business partner, a Guangzhou native, was as surprised as I am. Of all places to register a company, Shanghai made the process the fastest and simplest,” he said. “Some kind folk in Nanxiang (in Jiading District of Shanghai) are personally overseeing the registration process in order to minimize complications and help the young business prosper.”

Janice Sigrist, an America who has been running kindergartens in Shanghai since 2000, also applauded the city.

“I came to Shanghai in 2000, and instantly fell in love with it,” she said. “Over the years I have had the opportunity to travel throughout China, and I am always so happy to return to this amazing and convenient city, where the possibilities are limitless and the people are so open.

“All of the changes that have occurred over the years just keep making the city better in every way. I especially see the changes that have occurred in education, and applaud the reforms and openness. Congratulations and hooray for Shanghai!”

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