Contracts 合同 Part 2 – Bad Contract

Here are some of the more important parts of a particuarly bad contract that I once signed with Star Education – It’s bad but not the most unfair contract I’ve seen in China. Most teaching contracts are set out in a similar fashion to this and do I hope this can be of help to anyone who wishes to sign a contract to teach in China.

In the contracts there’s all sorts of waffle that really isn’t so important to you, most of it is there as it’s government policy to put these things into work contracts.

Below is taken from the annex or the part of a contract that is written by the host institution (i.e a company/language centre), not the government SAFEA booklet as that’s standard accross China and only used by mainly public universities and colleges.


This is a real trick that could get you into a lot of difficulty with a dishonest employer. Usually you should ALWAYS have the amount of hours you work PER WEEK – and state that what exactly a week is i.e. – Monday to Friday.

Having hours per month means that you will probably have different class times each week, no real fixed schedule. It will mean lots of travelling between schools and will kill your free time.

The employer will say that 20 hours a week = 80 Hours a month, If so then why not put 20 hours per week into the contract not 80 hours per month?

The worst thing is that if you only get paid if you work all of the hours in the contract (i.e handing in timesheets) , and if the company you work for can’t give you all the hours – for whatever reason – you will not get paid fully.   Also if the company says you must work 60 hours this week to make up all of the hours you are meant to work in a month, you have to do it – essentially it puts lots of strain on your time


It is in the employers interest to have contract that specify monthly hours, not yours. It is a practice used by farming companies and some private schools.


This is too general, try to get it narrowed down to exactly what you will be teaching. I.e oral English, English writing or whatever it may be.

Again far to broad. Changchun – although not a big city in China – still has about 7 million people living there.  Also the way the Chinese designate their cities through the various sprawling districts, you could end up working 40km away from the city centreitself as it’s still classed as Changchun.  I once worked an hours coach trip from the centre of Changchun in a place called shuangyang (双阳)which is still considered part of Changchun by the government.

This means that you may have one class in the east of the city in the morning and anoter in the west in the afternoon.  You’ll have no time for lunch because it will take you all the time to get there.  You may have to take a taxi because the buses take too much time and and the end of a days work you may have made very little and be totally exhausted.

Try to get the locations fixed, the names of campuses, buildings if possible.  If you have to work elsewhere – get transport (i.e taxi) paid for – good schools will have no problem doing this.   


Again get it as specific as possible unless you don’t mid teaching all ages.


This is a trick clause and should be removed from all contracts before signing.   Bsaically what it is telling you is that the company/school probably can’t get you enough classes  and so don’t want to pay you all of your salary.   It puts you in a very diffcult position if the employer has no work for you, as you are still employed by them but are not being paid!   A good employer will never have anything like this in it’s contract, if you see it in an initail contract it’s a big red flag.  Avoid.


So leading on from the previous point, when you dont work 80 hours a month you will only be paid pro-rata at 62 an hour.  This is very bad indeed.  Furthermore as most classes last 40 or 45 minutes you will only be paid 42 or 47 yuan per class.   If a class is cancelled (as they often are) you will  have to make up the hours in your free time. 

 To put this in perspective, I know Chinese English teachers who make more than this per hour and they work far fewer classes a week.

Good organisations do not do this.  A class, whether it be 30 mins, 40, 45, 50 or 1 hour is classed as a teaching hour.   Again, if you see this in a contract – run.

4.3, 4.4

 Repeats the above condition. Just remember, why would an employer put a clause like this into a contract?  What are his/her motives?   It certainly isn’t in the interest of his employees… 

You get paid  for the months classes, so if you start mid-month, will only get 2 weeks pay.  Basic meaning is that you will be paid in arrears.   Universities don’t pay in arrears, they pay on a fixed date (usually the 15th) and the pay is for the full month.

 Agreeing to this could cause you to lose half a months pay – as you may never see the pay for the arrears worked.   

Your overtime will be paid at 80 yuan an hour – but only if it exceeds 80 hours a month.  So if you have only worked 70 hours in the month, there is nothing stopping your employer making you work 10 hours in one day and you will not see any overtime.

This clause protects the employer from ever paying overtime to his employees, he/she will give the work to those people that have not made up 80 hours a month rather than pay over time.   Incidently, overtime is always paid at a miniumum of 100 Yuan an hour and personally I wouldn’t put this into the contract.  I would deal with any overtime as it comes, on case-by-case basis, and negotiate at the actual time.  I have been paid 200 yuan an hour for some jobs, It depends on the actual situation. 


 No holiday or vacation pay.  Very bad indeed, everyone should get paid for at least the October and May holidays.  And make up the classes missed.   No winter vacation pay, so will have at least 2 months where there is very little work available and no guaranteed income.  Unless you moonlight. 


Probably the most straight forward part of the contract, you get 800 Yuan for rent each month.  This is extra to your salary and you get it each month regardless of how many hours you work.  800 really isn’t enough to get a decent apartment in central Changchun, for that you need more like 1500 yuan a month.   

Actually I was told that this 800 would not be paid to me as the company had no classes for me – and so I wouldn’t be teaching for 2 months – As you can see that is basides the point, I get this regardless of how much I work.  This eventually led me to perform a runner from the company as it was my only prudent choice of action at the time. 


Note the wording ‘fulfill the contract’ this can be misconstrued and twisted by any employer.  Get dates i.e. 31st July 2007 will get paid …. for  Flight ticket – this leaves no ambiguities.  Also only from Beijing, you still have to get to Changchun.  Wihout discount that’s another 2000 Yuan to your ticket price.  To be honest to get to the UK from Changchun return, if you include all transport costs is 7000+.      

The final passage is next to meaningless as it says should not, which in legal documents means nothing whatsoever.


Again badly worded, can be misconstrued.  Get exact pay dates into the contract.


This is potentially disasterous for the teacher.  If a school re-schedules, you MUST obey any class shifting – even if you are only given 30 mins notice.  This should never be agreed to, it must be reasonable.


Standard government stuff, but is far to sweeping and needs to be tidied-up.  Not to enagage in any mass activities is far too excessive – you could argue that by signing this you cannot teach as that in itself is a mass activity!   😉  


Ignore, not important – almost all contracts have something like this in it.  Just don’t tell party A,  but make sure other work does not clash with one this work. 


Ignore.  Just dont tell them, it’s  none of their business what you choose to do in your free time.  They are trying to cover themselves if you get hurt or injured whilst not working as technically as an employer they are vicariously liable for you.

It's a secret!!It's a secret!!10.4

Designed to scare you more than anything else.   I highly doubt whether this is based on actual fact, but to be honest it’s not important.  You have to ask the rhetorical question – Why would somebody ‘ sudden disappearance/departure of party B from his or her post’ ?

Clearly they have had problems previously and are trying to scare people into not running from a contract that has been dishonoured by the employer.   In my experience people don’t just run for no reason.  Some are home sick and leave very soon after arriving in China, but most do it because their employer is screwing them/going to screw them.

Don’t work for Jilin University


Updated Sep 2019 to remove name of individual who kindly requested their name be removed, as this happened 12 years ago .

This is my final post about this problem, I hope others can learn from this and perhaps it will help them in the future.

This post is a return to the previous jida problem I wrote about in July. I’d almost forgotten about this, until this morning received an email from a Mr Redacted asking why the school had not yet received any marks from the final exam I gave to my students. Of course the reasons for this are axiomatic – those marks are the only quid pjilin university lie ro quo I have left.
Am I being un-professional by holding them back? Perhaps but this is my only option. My hand has been forced.

It has crossed my mind just giving in and handing over the marks but this would undermine my position as I have others still persuing them through ‘legal’ means. I feel a little sorry for the students who are caught in the middle of this, they are though, used to such problems happening, it’s just one of the many unfair aspects to the education system in Changchun.

I don’t want to seem to be complaining all the time about things and I wasn’t going to say any more about this on my blog, until I got the email. I now feel compelled to put this here to set the record straight, as no-doubt, the university will say all sorts of poisonous lies in an attempt to discredit me. As I am no longer in Changchun I have nothing to fear by writing the names of those invloved and exactly what they said to me.

I have been discreet up to now, not using names, being vague In the hope that things could be setteled without any loss of ‘face’ on their part. This isn’t going to happen now.

In my previous post I wrote about 2 people at Jida who threatened me with withdrawing money from my bank account ‘a back transfer’ to use their exact words as well as other things.
There’s nothing like a bit of naming and shaming so –

These two people are:

姓 名:张广翠 zhang guangcui
职 务:副处长 vice director
办公电话: 85166576 工作职责:
分管外国专家和港澳台事务工作 – manages foreign experts general affairs
or find her picture here

姓 名:赵勇 zhao yong – this ironically means brave. haha
职 务:项目官员 project officer
办公电话: 85166567 工作职责:
负责长期外国(境外)专家项目;相关专家的接待与安排。- don’t make me laugh!
or find her picture here

I now know this technically cannot be done but It was a clear threat made to make me go away and give up chasing the money. The university only owes me 2 months salary, not very much money in the scheme of things but they did this to all the foreign teachers and so you can understand we’re now talking about hundreds of thousands of yuan, which is a lot of money in any country, especially so here.

Reputation and face counts for so much to these people, I just hope that everybody that reads this understands that I am doing this because others need to know about what really goes on. Many international universities have partnership programmes and do business through the department of International Co-operation, I hope people can read this and see how they really treat their foreign employees. Do I have an axe to grind? I don’t think so, I’m back in the UK doing new things. I just want others to be informed of this, It is too bad to go unnoticed. From a dodgy company I would expect this, but from Jilin University you do not. After all, they are ‘one of the best universities in China.’

A problem with a big university like Jida is nobody communicates between departments, nobody really knows what’s going on. So a Mr Redacted, whom I have no grudge with whatsoever, isn’t (or claims to be) unaware of what has been happening, wrote this email I just recieved:
Here’s the email with my responses indented:

Dear David,
It’s nice to get your reply. I am glad that I can contact you by email .
First of all, the students taught by you think they have learned a lot in your classes and they really regard you as a responsible and competent teacher.

Thank you. I also have learned a lot and the students were wonderful, so many great experiences in class. I shall miss the classroom and teaching aspect of things at Jida. The students were a pleasure to teach.

They are longing for the results of the final exams which they have prepared for carefully and diligently for a period of time.

The students know their results, just I haven’t given them to the school yet. You already know why.

Secondly,to be honest, I don’t know what has happened between you and Jilin University Department for International Co-operation regarding salary.

Sorry, I don’t believe you.

But no matter what the problem is, it is your students rather than Jilin University Department for International Co-operation the that care about the exam results

10/10 for honesty. You heard it from the horse’s mouth – ‘it is your students rather than Jilin University Department for International Co-operation that care about the exam results.’
So Jilin University doesn’t care about it’s students exam results. hmmm where have I heard that before! Money is everything for them. Such greedy, selfish people.

Your refusal of my request for the exam results can not help solving the problem regarding salary at all, and it can only lead to the cancellation of the subject you taught last semester and all the students will not get the results of the subject at last.

And that says it all. The students mean nothing to the university when they are prepared to ‘cancel’ a semester’s worth of classes for the sake of pocketing an extra buck. Or maybe they are more afraid of losing face by admitting they have in effect stolen money that should have been given into teachers salaries?

It is a waste of time for all the students, and as a teacher myself, I think it is unfair to all the innocent students indeed.

Your university started this! I worked hard, never had any complaints, the students liked me, never turned up late for work – and you say its unfair. This is a twisted response from a morally bankrupt university that brings shame upon honest hard working teachers. You say you are a ‘teacher’, how would you react if I took 2 months salary from your bank account?

So, for the benefit of these innocent students, would you please send me the marks for the students final exams?

Another twisted argument, trying to blackmail me. Remember, I worked, did nothing wrong. You did not pay. End of argument.

And all the students will appreciate your kindness.
Best wishes.
Sincerely Yours

This chap is the position redacted Medical School Education Department, obviously somebody has leant on him to write this as I’ve never heard from him before. Never even saw him before. Don’t know who is is.
Like I have said before, teaching in China is massively rewarding and a really great thing with which to pick up new ideas on life. At times it’s simply brilliant. So much fun.

What annoys me is I did my research with this position at Jida, I checked everything- left no stone unturned.
The contract is unambigious, yet, I still got cheated. I tried to reason, but failed. They were not willing to listen.

I guess they point I’m trying to make is: Regardless of where you work, regardless of the reputation of the university, regardless of what the contract unambigiously says – You can be screwed, nothing can help you.

Just go into contracts with the impression that you will be cheated at some point, then perhaps this will not come as a surprise. It is sad, but the only logical answer I can think of!