New Hope for Veteran (Foreign) Teachers in China!

Late last year, I mentioned reports I'd received from foreign teachers in China, who said that their visas were being revoked (or turned down for renewal) as soon as they reached age 60. Main post here, with links to previous items. For those affected, this was a big deal -- around the country, a lot of foreign English teachers I'd met were either right out of college, doing something exciting/worthy before beginning "real" life, or a generation-plus older, doing something exciting/worthy as a second career.

As with everything in China, reports and conditions varied. Some people wrote to say that, yes, their institution too was kicking them out. Others said, No change and no problem. The main post summarized the reports thus:

1) Circumstances naturally vary place to place and institution to institution. Some people say they're having no trouble staying on, at whatever age; others, that a crackdown really does seem to be under way.

2) Lots of other countries have mandatory retirement ages of 55, 60, 62, etc; and if visas there are tied to jobs, foreigners sometimes have to leave.

3) Historically Chinese institutions have used age brackets, or other "categorical" exclusions, as an excuse to move out people they wanted to expel for other reasons.

4) What seems to be an age-related crackdown might actually be aimed at people who have been in China for a long time -- a related but different objective.

Martin Wolff, the head of an organization called China Holistic English has written several times to object to my having posted this information. His complaint is that, in his experience, there is no problem with the age-60 rule; and that the reports I quoted have caused unwarranted fear, suspicion, altered plans, and general bad-feeling.

I told him that I had reason to trust the people who sent the earlier reports, but that I would be happy to quote his views and experiences. He didn't want me to do that until he had proof for his side, which he says he has now obtained. After the jump, quotes from his correspondence with a Chinese official in his province saying that, yes, sometimes there are exceptions to the age-60 rule.

My larger experience is that it is normal, rather than puzzling or exceptional, for different people to have different experiences in separate parts of the country. So I believe all the accounts I have posted, from those who have run into difficulty and those who have found everything smooth.

Martin Wolff, who in his correspondence identifies himself as "J.D. / China Foreign Expert," writes with this explanation:

[This is Martin Wolff's note to me.] You may quote and publish anything you like from the following email exchange with Kaifeng University, Henan Province. This email confirms that the Bishops were not correct in their original communication with you: "China is purging foreign teachers over the age of 60. No new visas. and no exception  I know of anywhere in the country. I am on a forum that connects hundreds of teachers here. Smart ain't it? Thus, no retired teacher, those with the most training and experience and the least likely to chase young Chinese women, can be hired into schools that desperately NEED trained teachers who have actually earned their degrees from accredited institutions."

Martin Wolff, J.D.

China Foreign Expert



[Now here come the quoted emails Martin Wolff J.D. submitted as evidence, with email addresses removed.]

----- 原文 -----
发件人: Martin Wolff
主 题: Re: 回复: Employment 2010
时 间: 2010年7月20日 19:05:03
Do you mean that the Henan Provincial Foreign Affairs Office will waive the 60 age limitation in certain circumstances?

Martin Wolff, J.D.

China Foreign Expert

--- On Wed, 7/21/10,  wrote:

Subject: Re: 回复: Employment 2010
To: "Martin Wolff"
Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2010, 12:02 AM

That is, he asked a university official whether it was possible to get a waiver, and the official said Yes. QED.

Again, for the record, I have no reason to doubt the people I originally quoted -- the Bishop family -- who said that they were having troubles, nor many others who wrote in to similar effect. But I also welcome a statement that exceptions can be made. And if the prevailing current situation is non-enforcement of the rule, great! I hope that is the case.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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