After reading this (Persistent issues with salary pay as a postdoc in China: What can I do?) I am kind of worried about working in China with regards to pay.

On paper, the type of salary advertised by some universities is fantastic for Chinese standards, even Western standards.

For instance, on https://www.mathjobs.org, postdoc/assistant professor salaries are in the range of 200k-500k RMB per year. For Chinese standard of living, this is considered very good.

Is this a realistic salary? Any experience to share? I am a foreigner and do not know much about Chinese academia.

Also, this salary does not tally with what I read elsewhere online and speaking with some Chinese friends. According to them, 100k RMB per year is more of the norm in China for postdocs and junior faculty. The Chinese universities do give some other benefits like housing/research funding though.


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    you got offer of 200k? – SSimon Apr 12 '18 at 15:20
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    @SSimon Well, no. But I saw it stated explicitly on websites. Currently I have still not graduated. – yoyostein Apr 12 '18 at 15:37
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    China has a problem with very low salaries for post docs!!! id they offer you 200k, please accept, but I doubt – SSimon Apr 13 '18 at 2:38
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    I answered below but careful with relying too much on the promised benefits like "like housing/research funding" because in my experience they may ultimately claim there are available apartments upon your arrival, or the one offered is uninhabitable (my case), and funding for research may be locked behind sour bureaucracy and negotiation or in reality prove as something else, such as a major part of your official salary which was broken down by the administration. – Scientist Apr 25 '18 at 12:56

Please take my answer considering my declared conflict of interests: I am the author of the linked question "Persistent issues with salary pay as a postdoc in China: What can I do?". Here we are within just 5 days from departure and still the payment issue is a monumental struggle. I shall update my situation in that question soon after I am gone.

Now, directly answering your question. I have been offered another postdoctoral fellowship at CAS/Beijing for (theoretical) 250k/year. My friends in that same lab (lower salary, Chinese PhDs) claim they never had issues with being paid, stating they get 9k every month sharp. I have done some research around and in fact standard salary is within 120-180K per year, with the problem that typically some 35k off the total are withheld until the very end. They claim this is to ensure you'll complete your "duties". However postdoctoral salary offers are on stead increase, and now there are several places offering >200k per year, up to 280k per year as the highest I've heard. Mind you that the Chinese system works on a local logic of "meritocracy" which is solidly based on rankings. This means that highest salaries are offered to the youngest PhDs coming from top-rank universities from 1st world countries who published in top IF journals. These individuals will get offered >250k per year as postdocs with a wide margin for negotiating extra benefits. This brings me to another point: in Chinese culture negotiation is never-ending. This means a signed contract is just a formality symbolising your engagement, and from that moment on rules and terms can and will be moved around depending on a complex game of mutual understanding. This is called "guanxi" in business in China and can be very hard for foreigners to understand & digest. Finally, this brings up again the issue I face while here. What was written in the original offer and even on contract may be quite different from reality. Carefully read the discussion at zhihu.com/question/52131526/answer/232792998. This is a top university in China offering attractive contracts for postdocs and locals are complaining they finally get a fraction of the promised figure. I know how it feels.

Realistically, expect earning anywhere between 8-12k a month depending on your "qualifications" for local standards, while working 10h per day 6x a week and being asked for more. Expect some dirty game around your payment, possibly involving potentially illegal activity (e.g. being asked to generate fake invoices).

All points taken, it boils down to your personal reasons for taking a postdoc, and why are you considering this and that lab, and why in China. If you're the kind of righteous law-abiding animal-loving individual who enjoys straightforwardness and openness, a healthy work-life balance, and drinking some wine with a good cheese on occasion... probably coming to China might not be a good idea. If you're seeking a stable salary pay and a professional work environment towards erecting as a established professional, probably taking a postdoc may not be the shortest nor surest path. I don't think you should focus your worries on salary, all the more in China where it may vary without warning.

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    I read your the other question before. I was hoping you would get all the problems squared away given more time. Obviously not. Did you ever try to contact Ministry of Education about your issues? As far as I know, Chinese will not like this kind of problems happened and made public. They would lose face this way and they would have trouble finding postdocs in the future. I would definitely suggest you to contact the central government. – scaaahu Apr 25 '18 at 13:30
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    Thanks for your answer. It is an important warning to us foreigners who have little idea what is going on. I have no doubt that the situation in China will improve eventually, but it may take ten years or more... If an early career scientist falls into one of the above “scams”, it could be devastating. – yoyostein Apr 25 '18 at 13:44
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    @scaaahu thanks for your insights and wish. I have decided not to contact MoE until they finally showed me more of the true face of their scheme. Which they did, and remarkably via email. My plan now at the very end is to contact the Principal tomorrow, and than try to call & write to MoE. I openly announced to them I will do that, and they didn't seem the least intimidated. I think they either believe they are right, or that I am bluffing, or that the authorities will side with them. I am deeply puzzled, and maybe this is part of their strategy. Will update all on my answer within few days. – Scientist Apr 25 '18 at 13:44
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    @yoyostein In fact I am warning anyone, not just foreigners. My impression is that (i) local postdocs do not expect these games; (ii) these issues are increasingly common in other countries; (iii) the schemes survive on the silence of the lambs. It can indeed be devastating. I am rather strong-minded, and already experienced with academic abuse. I feel most people I know would have cracked in my position, e.g. total submission, mental breakdown. An aggressive individual would find it hard avoiding physical conflict which would rapidly culminate with fines and deportation. – Scientist Apr 25 '18 at 13:50
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    @Stefan This is one deep discussion and a highly subjective topic. I am afraid manipulators unfortunately thrive in professional academia and industry. Still this was the most openly parasitic individual I have met in over a decade working. I am surprised he is tolerated as such, and that said a lot about the local ambiance. – Scientist Jun 25 '18 at 16:12

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