TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A popular South African YouTuber with over 540,000 followers on Aug. 27 uploaded a video in which he asserted that China is no longer a land of opportunity for young expatriates seeking adventure and career development prospects.
Amid China's crackdown on English tutoring schools, tech firms, tycoons, celebrities, and video games, Winston Sterzel, who goes by the handle SerpentZA, on Aug. 27 released a video titled "The PARTY is OVER! China is done!" In the video, Sterzel warned foreigners considering investing in China or engaging in English teaching in the country to "forget about it, the time for that is done."
He pointed out that foreigners wishing to work in China must be able to provide a skill that locals do not possess in order to acquire a foreign expert certificate. With the exception of a few specialists in science and technology, Sterzel explained that the only job most young foreigners in China can do is to teach English or other major European languages.
In the past, there were two means one could become gainfully employed as an English teacher in China. One was to work for a large chain such as English First or Wall Street English, which could provide visas, accommodations, and compensation for airfare.
The other option was the "dodgy training centers" that coaxed teachers into going to China on a student or business visa with the promise of a work visa later. However, he said most never provided the work visa and would pay teachers off the books.
In both cases, teachers would supplement their income by teaching in private homes after finishing their work in the schools. However, Sterzel said this system is "all over now," because China's Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party "do not want foreign influence anymore in their education."
While citing a directive from China's Ministry of Education issued on Aug. 24 to include "Xi Jinping thought" in all school curriculums, Sterzel stated that China has banned international textbooks, and foreign influence is no longer to be allowed in schools.
Referring to a ban on for-profit tutoring centers announced on July 24, Sterzel said that training centers are no longer to operate for profit, on the weekends, or on school holidays. He said the effect was immediate, with hundreds of contacts in the English teaching industry in China telling him that they had lost their jobs or are in a training center that is on the verge of closing.
He said that many of those impacted are small "mom and pop training centers," many of which were co-owned by foreign nationals who established the schools with their Chinese spouse or local business partner. They have been telling him that their businesses have been completely shut down.
According to Sterzel, the entire industry was "wiped out" within one week of the government proclamation. He warned young foreigners hoping to go to China to teach English and realize their "Chinese dream" that it is "no longer an option."
First, many of the major English teaching companies have already gone out of business, such as Wall Street English, while others are on life support. Second, the old method of showing up in China with a tourist or business visa is no longer viable because of COVID restrictions.
What is left is the underground private teaching sector, which he says is now "flooded with foreigners" who have lost their jobs at the various types of training centers. Although these private teachers are able to command a high price for their services at the moment, Sterzel said this will not last very long, as their visas obtained through their defunct training centers will soon expire.
Short-term visas, such as tourism visas, will be extremely difficult to renew given China's ongoing COVID restrictions. He said the only teachers left standing will be the few married to Chinese citizens who carry spousal visas.
Given that it is "absolutely impossible" for outsiders trying to break into the China market, Sterzel suggested that those wishing to teach English in China should instead "Go to Taiwan." Sterzel then observed that "Taiwan, after all, is a far more interesting place" than China.
He argued that for people seeking to find "real Chinese tradition and culture" and a place where Mandarin is spoken, "Taiwan's definitely the place to go." Sterzel observed that there are none of the "awful restrictions on freedom" seen in China because it is a free country.
Other countries he suggested aspiring adventurers go to included Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand. He emphasized that Vietnam in particular has many of the traits of China decades ago when it was first opening up and economic growth was accelerating.
He added that the English teaching industry is not the only victim of the massive crackdown, with tech companies, large corporations, and the stock market all taking a hit from Beijing's draconian policies. He warned that investing in China is a "big risk and a mistake because you never know who they're going to single out next."