Sino Americans are held to an arduously unrealistic standard by Chinese society when it comes to language fluency, as a result of which, they have been unfairly excluded from the Chinese, and more broadly, the East Asian job market.
Unfortunately, there has been a pervasive trend in China and Hong Kong (extending to all of East Asia, in fact) where second-generation Sino Americans, those seeking to reside and be employed in their ethnic homeland, are being systematically shut out of the job market despite possessing superior qualifications and work experience. It is already a well-known discrepancy that many so-called "English teaching" positions seek white applicants, and reject Sino Americans though they are 100% fluent in English. This article, rather, addresses the phenomenon which began in the past eight years (starting around 2010) where Sino Americans are being shut out of lucrative jobs in the Mainland of China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, in the broader fields of finance, consulting, technology, and law simply because they are held to an impossible standard concerning their fluency in Chinese language, but are given no credit for their fluency in English.
The job market at present is plagued by a double-standard, according to which Chinese citizens with business-level proficiency in English are considered "fluent in English," and hired for meaningful roles, but a Sino American who is in the opposite situation — having perfect English, and business-level proficiency in Chinese — is being excluded from a wide range of roles within most Chinese industries.
Sino American Reunion (SAR) finds it worthwhile to speak up concerning this injustice, because nobody else is speaking up, and such a state of affairs has obstructed many talented, hardworking, and qualified Sino Americans who feel allegiance to their country, China, to fall through the cracks, as the wider Chinese society illogically spurns them.
The author himself has worked in the hedge fund and banking industry in Hong Kong from 2012 to 2014, around which time he began to see a pervasive and adverse trend of highly qualified Sino Americans being passed over or replaced, either by Chinese citizens or white people. This trend needs to be called out because there is a group of highly talented and deserving Sino Americans, especially males, who are not given the employment and career opportunities which are commensurate with their qualifications, skills, and passions, simply because they are Sino Americans. They are derided by the public as being trapped between two cultures, yet bearing membership in neither, and being endowed with the social networking capacities of neither. As of late, Chinese employers, especially large law firms, asset management companies, investment funds, technology companies, consulting organizations, and VC firms have been rather obviously filtering candidates based on their "perceived" fluency in Chinese, and this has effectively eliminated Sino Americans from consideration, regardless of their diligent efforts to acquire Chinese on their own.
It is not hard to perform a quick search on LinkedIn (or any other job portal) for finance or consulting jobs in Hong Kong or Singapore, and to realize that nearly all of them require fluency in Chinese. See the pictures below: At the same time, white-dominated corporations in the Anglosphere offer few, if any, career promotion opportunities for Sino American males. This is well-known and has been extensively discussed. This is the reason why many Sino Americans, especially males, have come back to their home country, upon discovering the Anglosphere's extreme hostility toward East Asian male descendants. American corporations have long used a variety of subtle tactics to spurn qualified East Asian male descendants from being promoted to senior positions allowing for strategic planning. However, we are seeing before us the rise of a second trend, that of American corporations eagerly hiring Chinese citizens, while maintaining their exclusion of Sino Americans, the former being perceived as more "native" even in the light of numerous Sino Americans who have spent years studying Chinese to achieve their business-level proficiency or greater. We have observed that when job openings in almost any industry say they desire "fluent English and Chinese" (see the LinkedIn screenshots above), what the employer is really looking for is someone with 100% native-level Chinese, along with business-level English. This dynamic favors the native Chinese if their English is merely passable. However, Sino Americans, having grown up in America, would not be considered for these same positions, even if they spent significant amounts of time studying Chinese and achieved business-level proficiency. This dynamic establishes a “double-standard”in the realm of language requirements which effectively shuts out the Sino American from most jobs in the China, even jobs where their Chinese is more than sufficient. However, the Chinese citizens speaking “passable English” are allowed employment and advancement opportunities with no pressure for their English to improve.
Moreover, for any job which requires 100% fluent English, Chinese companies on the whole prefer to hire white people, as they are seen as being the “true Americans” who can help Chinese companies access business opportunities in Anglosphere and European countries, whereas Sino Americans are passed over unfairly again, even though they can easily produce same or higher quality of work as the whites. The author has witnessed countless incidents of Chinese corporations or enterprises hiring only Chinese citizens to do the “China-facing” portion of the job, and only whites to do the “foreign-facing” jobs. There is no room for the Sino American, even those who graduated from such schools as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, to get his foot in the door, seeing that the combination of "perfect English plus business level Chinese" is viewed with contempt, and filtered out during interviews. The author has been in interviews with numerous large corporations — which were easily scheduled because of his Ivy League credentials — only to be asked, numerous times, as the first question, "At what age did you go to America?" and to be spurned immediately following.
Most crucially, it is nearly impossible for the Sino American who grew up in the Anglosphere or Europe to overcome this bias by sheer diligence and willpower. What Chinese employers consider to be native-level fluency in Chinese is almost universally based on subjective "assessments" of demeanor and mannerisms, which are nearly impossible for someone who was not reared in China to emulate, regardless of how much vocabulary he has memorized, or how many books he has read. Thus, a Sino American who arrived in the USA at 10, who even continued taking weekend Chinese courses while in the USA, and pursuing Chinese studies in high school or college, would not be considered for the positions discussed, and his advanced mastery of English confers no merit in the eyes of the interviewer. All experience shows — and this is attested by numerous well-educated Sino Americans — that most employers in China judge a candidate based solely on the age at which they entered the USA, and have no confidence in Sino Americans who have studied Chinese in their own time and defied the odds, no matter how well they can score in written Chinese proficiency exams. The threshold of age, after which one may leave China and develop in another country, and still be considered as possessing Chinese mannerisms and the capacity of dealing on equal terms with Chinese peers, is roughly 15. Thus, leaving China early, or revealing to others that one had left China early, has become a kiss-of-death for finding decent jobs in Greater China.
The standards of the Chinese toward fluency are so uncharacteristically harsh. Imagine if Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, or Arnold Schwarzenegger's English proficiencies were constantly called into question, on account of their foreign accents and subtly differing mannerisms. That is the impossible standard to which Sino Americans are presently held. Whereas white migrants from other countries are seen as "fully American" despite their less-than-perfect English, Sino Americans are not even given a chance to prove their formal and written proficiency of Chinese because of the strong emphasis on colloquialisms and mannerisms.
Let us review the basic facts again: Sino Americans were brought to the USA (or Anglosphere, Europe) at a young age. They did not consciously choose to discard their ties to the homeland in favor of blind worship of whites. This decision was made by their parents, many of whom prevented their children from learning about their heritage, and applied all manner of physical and mental abuse these children to force them to "assimilate" into a white-dominated, yellow-despising culture which labelled them as being "perpetual foreigners." But once these children grow up and realize the adversity of their situation, and seek to make a living in their ethnic homeland, China, such as to live as the ordinary Chinese people they were meant to be, they find themselves rejected by unjust stereotypes which Chinese citizens hold against second-generation Sino Americans. The end result is that Sino Americans cannot easily return to China because of the perverse "background discrimination" of the job market, one which welcomes both Chinese citizens and, to a lesser extent, first-generation Sino Americans, and even white Americans (in limited sales and English-teaching roles). The second-generation Sino American has been entirely left in the cold.
SAR thereby proposes two solutions to help resolve this problem, or at least to help Sino Americans who want to return to China to better realize the “fair value” of their careers.
1. Formation of a Sino American Network within China
SAR is spearheading the development of a business and social network for Sino Americans who have returned to China to work and to live. We currently have connections across the major cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen) and are actively expanding our core membership base. Our members are united by the common sense of struggle against a litany of unfair discrimination that society has dished out to us, and we want to focus on working within and across networks to create our own businesses that would allow us to hire other talented, hardworking Sino Americans who have been discarded by most employers for the unfair reasons we've highlighted above.
2. Contributing Our Knowledge to Help China Expand
It is our hope that in the future there will be a greater degree of visa assistance offered to Sino Americans who have come back to the motherland to work and live. We hope that our stories and struggles, the pain of not fitting in either societies, beatings by first generation Chinese immigrants, and other mental and physical stories, and our desire to contribute back to China, our true homeland, might be a story worth telling to the public. We will be working with government organizations and people in Beijing to make our case that 2nd generation Sino Americans, who never made the conscious choice to immigrate to the USA in the first place, but were brought by their parents, have much to contribute to China, especially in the areas of tech, foreign policy, and helping China better project its soft power into the world at large.