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Chinese cities are classified on a 4 Tier system, with each of the country's 634 cities falling into a specific tier. Which tier a city falls into is assigned based on 3 main factors - GDP, Population, and Politics. Each city is ranked on a scale of 1-3 on these factors and these are then averaged out to come up with a score. Beijing and Shenzhen both fall into a Tier 1 category, while Qingdao and Hangzhou would fall into Tier 2. 

Tier 1 cities usually have a higher cost of living and a larger population. Schools in Tier 1 cities tend to offer higher salaries and more housing allowance to make up for the increased cost. You can expect Tier 1 cities to be hubs of industry and business and a great place to network and meet like-minded young expats from all professions, not just ESL teachers passing through. Shenzhen, which shares a coast with Hong Kong is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the East. 

Tier 2 cities are still bustling and heavily populated, but you can expect to spend less on housing, food and entertainment in these cities. Your salary and housing allowance might be slightly lower, but so will your cost of living. 


Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai

Cities with populations of over 15,000,000 people.

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Image by Li Yang


Hangzhou, Qingdao, Nanjing, Chengdu

Cities with populations between 3,000,000 to 15,000,000 people.

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Guilin, Dongguan, Wenzhou

Smaller cities have populations between 15,000 to 3,000,000 people.

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Image by Sam Balye
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