In China, English Teaching Is a Whites-Only Club

Brittany Tom, NBC News, May 15, 2012


Chinese teaching agencies are constantly seeking candidates to teach English to the growing number of children who are looking to get a leg up in China’s rigorous academic environment. The opportunity is quite lucrative and requires little or no knowledge of Chinese.

But the ads recruiting these teachers come with a catch.

Take, for example, Mike Lee and Will Evans, students from the U.S. and Canada, respectively, who applied to be English teachers through the New Development School, a teacher-placement agency in Beijing. Being fluent speakers of English, both believed they would make competitive candidates.

What they didn’t know is that recruiters would not be evaluating them just on their English fluency or academic credentials. Instead, they were judged primarily on physical appearance.

“We want him [pointing to Evans], but we don’t want you [to Lee],” the recruiter told them, as the two stood side by side at the front counter of the school. “Unfortunately, parents of our students don’t really want someone Asian to be teaching.”

Lee, who is Korean-American, was rejected from the school despite having previous experience teaching English as a second language (ESL). Evans, a white Canadian, was hired on the spot.

“I was shocked—back home this wouldn’t be acceptable,” Lee told NBC News. “I’ve never been discriminated (against) in that way.”


Racial discrimination is a harsh reality within China’s ESL industry, where recruiters actively seek the blond-hair, blue-eyed all-American archetype (along with similarly equipped Britons, Australians and other native speakers close behind). While brown hair also is acceptable, having a white face is a near-absolute requirement.

Byron Vogue, who works for the corporate English training company Stanford English, said that Chinese recruiters will always prefer to hire Caucasian applicants over their non-white counterparts.

“There’s this concept that if you send your children to English class, the parents are expecting their children to be taught by a white English teacher versus an Asian-American or … a black American,” he said.


The discrimination comes, Evans said, because Chinese parents simply do not believe a non-white person can possibly be a native speaker. Thus, this logic continues, hiring a white person is the simplest and easiest way to ensure that the teacher is truly fluent.

“I was told that it was nice for parents to see foreign or white-looking teachers around the school,” Evans said, adding that he was encouraged to walk outside and greet parents.

Advertisements for English teaching positions are up-front in their bias. A search for “English teacher” in The Beijinger’s classifieds section reveals dozens of ads that include language such as “Job requires American or Canadian white teacher” or “white color is preferred.”

The ESL teaching industry isn’t the only job market in China where being Caucasian is an asset. So-called “face jobs,” where companies temporarily hire a white person to be a fake employee during an important event or business meeting, also are common in China.


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  • Hunter Morrow

    Gah, Whites shouldn’t be teaching these enemies the language anyhow.


    • It is not a dishonorable job and the chinese are honest about blacks & crime. The only people well defended in the crack addict rodney king riots where asian shopkeepers on their roofs with rifles.

    • You must have just got back from the NASA trip to Jupiter.  The United States is now the far Eastern Provence of China.  Everything we wear and buy in stores is Chinese.  40 percent ( its really closer to 60 percent ) of our money is borrowed from China.  All of our money is now backed with paper.  Half the states are dead economically and will never live again.  


      • Carney3

        So the Chinese are our little manufacturing drones.  So what?  Better than importing Mexicans to mow our lawns.  As for borrowing money from China, again, so what?  Capital flows in from all over the world to America in a vote of confidence in us, a statement that other people view here as a better place for their money than in their own country.  EVERYONE’s money is “backed with paper” since the world got over its gold fetish.

      • BaronBaal

        Very true but most Americans will continue to buy Chinese and destroy their country and put their money in Chinese pockets.

        • ed91

           so spell out the alternative, and I don’t mean a simple sentence in all caps.

    • IanJMacDonald

       Seriously?  Well, are *you* going to give me a job?  So what should I do? Starve? Go on welfare?

  • anmpr1

    “The discrimination comes, Evans said, because Chinese parents simply do
    not believe a non-white person can possibly be a native speaker.”

    From doing business in China, and living there a while, I believe this to be nonsense.  It has nothing to do with anyone’s ability to speak at all.  The truth that cannot be discussed on NBC is that Chinese can’t stand Africans.  They completely look down on blacks, and the last thing the typical Chinese would want is a black teacher. 

    That being said, white English teachers, while in demand, are typically not held in high esteem as a class.  They are often seen as opportunistic losers in life (and many are), running away from a past.  However, some women view them as a one way ticket to the US or Canada, if they can snag one as a mate.

  •  “hiring a white person is the simplest and easiest way to ensure that the teacher is truly fluent”
    I guess they dont want to pay to learn ebonics.

    • Greg West

      No $h!t 4 years of Roseta Stone Ebonics down the crapper!

  • I leave politics and such out of this…

    I taught there for a year.  It’s not really what you think.  The big cities are developed and will take your breath away.  The small cities are developing.  The villages are 3rd world.  Regardless of where you travel or work in China, they don’t like blacks.  I mean really don’t like blacks.  They tolerate them in places like Guangzhou.   There the Africans do a lot of import/export.  There are black students in other places.  China uses African countries for political power in the UN, so they have partners with other former non-aligned nations thus letting a few blacks in to study.  They keep a watchful eye on the Africans.  They probably don’t like foreigners in general, but were friendly to me.  I have light brown hair, blue eyes, medium athletic built.  I fit into the box of what an American is suppose to look like.  

    They have the way of thinking that westerners did before we got all PC.  That blacks are a lower form of humanity.   One guy told me when talking about basketball, “they remind me of wildlife”.  I taught English and business at a university.  There was one black American there.  I think they hired her as a last resort right before the school year started.  She fit every black woman stereotype you can imagine.  From what I heard she had a couple in class “chimp outs”.  The Africans and blacks there are known for acting like fools and standing out in a culture that does’t encourage it.  They’re know for selling hash, trashing bars, and stealing the innocence of Chinese girls.  In my opinion, the Chinese have seen the damage they cause and try to limit their entry.  

    As far as the parents go, they think that blacks are a lower form of life.  Most Chinese are proud nationalist who care about their culture and family in way we can’t imagine.  Of course they don’t want blacks teaching there.  

  • loyalwhitebriton

    The Chinese, like Orientals generally, are militantly racist; which would probably explain, in a paradoxically  skewered way, why they prefer white European heritage English teachers.
    At least they’re being race realists.

    • ed91

       I would call it being blessed with common sense……. racist?  we americans have had words like that taken from us and raped.  Like gay, queer, discriminate, prejudice.
      Those words should be in a home for the battered.

  • Randy Kaven

    I recall that China once upon a time had several universities in the capital expressly for the purpose of turning Africans into good little commies. Over a period of years the populace finally got tired of the robbing, raping and killing. It seems like a spontaneous crowd of Chinese armed with boards with nails began to attack the Africans. It grew and grew such that even the police were afraid to intervene. From what I remember, someone in the police decided the best thing was to use the crowds to drive the Africans towards the airport where at least they would be safe and the government could decide what to do with them. Essentially they were all deported back to their homelands. As I remember the incident, thousands of blacks were driven to the airport by tens of thousands of Chinese.

    • ed91

       common sense prevailed.

  • Johnny Reb

    In World War 2 and the Korean Wars it was common for whites to tell the natives in whatever Pacific land they were in that blacks had tails.  It was a standing joke but many Koreans, Japanese and Chinese believed it – especially out in the sticks.

    When you look at the STAGGERING number of Japanese raped on Okinawa by blacks (a huge number being children) you wonder if maybe some do have tails.

  • dulouz

    Yea I did that for a while in Korea.  I didn’t miss the Blacks and it was great to move forward and consider a future as Blacks weren’t considered.  The country’s transmission wasn’t stuck in “Retard”.  Freedom!  

    The next time Asians start to whine about life in the West remind them in public that there is a great big “no immigrant” ring around Asia and remind them they have two passports in their pocket; one for where they can make fast money and one for home where no one else is allowed. 
    Call them phony when you are able.

  • ed91

    I’m familiar with this world wide profession of teaching english.  Most prefer that you don’t know any of the language of the country you’re teaching in.  Just know your english.

    • shmo123

       If that’s the case, it must make life extremely limited for any foreigner outside of whatever ex-pat community you may find. To teach English for an extended period of time must be like living in a bubble. However, I tend to think that xenophobia permeates most of Asia to varying degrees, so I’m not surprised.

      • WhiteGuyInJapan

         “To teach English for an extended period of time must be like living in a bubble.”

        Yes and no.  I have been in Japan for several years and the Japanese still see me as a “foreigner”, there is no assimilation.  Many seem surprised that a white guy can use chopsticks. 

        It is possible to socialize with a certain segment of Japanese society.  Generally, the Japanese who speak, or want to speak, English.  Doing martial arts gave me a chance to meet another section of Japanese society, one that did not care about English or the outside world. 

        As far as being in a bubble and isolated from news in the US, that’s one of things I like about living in Japan.  I can read the news on the internet and it makes me sad and angry.  Reading AR probably doesn’t help, either…

      • ed91

         no other countries outside of europe or us/canada are stupid and lalaish about the perils of diversity and leaving your borders open.

        soon we go through a very vivid metamorphosis……  may we survive as sentient beings, well, at least some of us.   good luck

  • Now China is a nation of over 3 billion.  3 billion people should know.

  • The Chinese know what they are doing.  They want white people because they do not want Chinese kids getting a Eubonics accent.  The Chinese pay cash so they should get what they want.  They want the best and white is the best you can get.

    • An Ebonics accent from a Korean American? Seems rather far fetched.

      • ed91

         the world you live in is far-fetched.

  • Carney3

    6 places so low because they fear we’ll impregnate their females.

  • Oil Can Harry

    The Chinese are wrong to discriminate. In fact I know a Korean who was taught English by a black teacher and he speaks just fine. Here’s a recent email he sent me:

    ” Yo, whattup, G. Holla! I be chillin’ lass night at de club wif my crew. They be ballin’ and steady pimpin’. Last night I be boppin’ on de dance flo’ wif a chickenhead an’ she give me da digits. Peace, I’m outtie. True dat fo’ shizzle.”  

    • anonymous_amren

      At least (hypothetical) North East Asians have the intelligence to use perfectly correct punctuation, even when writing ebonics and taught by a black person.

      • Oil Can Harry

        The paragraph had to have correct punctuation or it would be even more unreadable. Much like St. Trayvon’s twitter posts.  

  • The bottom line is that “English” is a white persons language and the Chinese are just recognizing this fact.

  • KenelmDigby

    So the Chinese want English language teachers who actually look like native English speakers.
      ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ as the say. All perfectly reasonable and proper one would have thought, but in the warped and twisted PC addled West, it’s behavior verging on the semi-criminal.

  • KenelmDigby

    Another point here is that when a foreigner pays good money for a ‘teacher of English’ he is not only employing someone for his fluency and mastery of the language, the teaching skills etc, he is also likely paying for someone who represents the language, history, culture and mores of the native land of that language – there is a lot more, subtlely, in learning a foreign language (if you ever choose to actually use it), than the words, grammar, syntax etc, good foreign language teaching tries to inculcate the student into the ways and customs of the foreign land.
     So who would you rather have as an English teacher, David Niven or Will Smith? 

  • Sherman_McCoy

    “I was shocked—back home this wouldn’t be acceptable,” Lee told NBC News. “I’ve never been discriminated (against) in that way.”Get used to it.  The rest of the world isn’t always as brain dead as the US and Canada.

  •  To wit:

    “But what about civil rights laws and fair housing laws?”

    U.S. Attorneys enforce those.  And Beijing is buying a lot of our debt to pay those U.S. Attorneys’ salaries.  He who pays the piper…

    I also recall some book stating that the borrower is servant to the lender.

  • Carney3

    This rant is basically wrong – headed. We ARE declining in some important ways and DO face a diminished future, but not because of free trade or China but rather because of mass non-white immigration. China will have a place among the great powers but gloom and doom like yours predicted Japanese dominance back in the 1980s, totally missing our growth in the 1990s and 2000s. China will be tripped up by far more serious and intractable problems than what hobbled Japan. China has large restive ethnic minorities, headache causing linguistic diversity even among its Han population, and corruption, chaos, poverty, and violence that totally dwarf anything you assert we have – plus a load of toxic debt from its state supported corrupt banks that makes Japan’s and our financial problem seem like child’s play.

    • RationalBeing

      It goes to show you that minorities are problems wherever they may be.

      However, I’d say that the Chinese have a much smaller proportion of their population that are minorities than we do.  The majority constitutes about 92% of the population.  Only eight percent are minorities, including the Tibetans and the Uighurs.

      As far as linguistic diversity, everyone who speaks Chinese reads and writes in the same language, regardless of whether he speaks the Mandarin, Cantonese, or other form of it.  Mandarin is the official spoken form of Chinese and most Cantonese Chinese also speak Mandarin.

      Think of America in the 1950’s.  The Chinese majority is like the proportion of whites in America 60 years ago — perhaps even greater.  Remember those days? 

      As far as toxic debt is concerned, remember that theirs is a very hybridized form of capitalism.  They have a fiat currency and all of their banks are essentially state banks — even the local ones.  Those toxic loans reflect money that is owed to itself.  They can be wiped out at the stroke of a pen without affecting China’s massive hard currency reserves or having any significant international effect.  Imagine if the U.S. could delete all the debts of JP Morgan Chase just by fiat.  Imagine if the U.S. federal government could declare that all state government budget deficits were null and void (which in reality can be done only through bankruptcy court).  Wall Street would be astounded, but in China, no one would bat an eye.  The enterprises that would lose out when a provincial-level entity loses its shirt are themselves state-owned enterprises.

      Further, it’s a mistake to compare China with Japan.  China’s internal market is ten times that of Japan.  When Japan’s economy ossified, it did so because it had to compete with external competitors and had no internal room for growth; it was already essentially developed.  China’s per-capita productivity and standard of living is approximately one-tenth that of the United States and Japan, and therefore there is substantial room to grow its internal market before it runs out of room for economic expansion.  China’s per-capita economic status is probably close to what Japan’s was in the 1950’s. 

      Further, unlike democracies, the Chinese dictatorship will, and does, ruthlessly exterminate internal dissent and will not tolerate international meddling in the name of human rights.

      These people are race realists to the core.  They will promote their own race above minority races even while stating what a multi-ethnic paradise China is — all as the world watches.  They are proud of their race and see themselves as worthy of cultural preservation despite what the rest of the world may say.

      What happened to that feeling in the West, I wonder?

      • Carney3

        China’s minorities are often the dominant majority in huge geographic swaths of PRC-claimed territory, such as Tibet, Xinkiang, etc. This is a major challenge to the regime’s control over those areas. The regime “wiping out” debts will lead to capital flight on an epic scale, just as any politically motivated dumping of the dollar would. The regime itself acknowledges tens of thousands of “mass incidents” of violent rural unrest EVERY YEAR. China’s “one child” policy will ensure it grows old before it gets rich, and it will have millions of unmarriageable males with no females. It has so many lit fuses hissing away there’s no stopping it all.

    • ed91

       there is no way that china’s corruption, chaos and violence dwarf ours. 

      I’ll give you population and poverty.

      • Carney3

        Corruption there is routine and pervasive. The chaos and violence are such that Bo Xilai nearly rose to the top on his crackdown on crime (both petty and organized). It’s so bad that, as I said, the REGIME ITSELF admits that there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of annual “mass incidents” in rural areas, usually of fed up peasants resorting to violence against predatory abusive local authorities.

  • O8856ehg

    “White” isn’t a culture.

    • Steve

      No, I suppose White isn’t “a culture.”  Rather Whites INVENTED culture (art, classical music, literature) and western civilization, no less.  The jibbering brown races have invented nothing except drug-resistant bacterial diseases!

      What you probably meant was Whites don’t wear their “ethnicity” on their sleeves.  That would be correct.  You see, ethnicity is, by definition a way of excluding those “not like you.”  That’s why GENUINE immigrants not only want to get the hell out of their 4th world banana republics, but they also want to learn to speak English without an accent, develop good personal hygiene habits, and dress like successful Americans.

      • Spartacus

        “Whites invented culture”

        I’m pretty sure people around the world have their own unique art, music, and literature. Don’t you sound ever the fool

    •  Sure it is.  It’s the culture of White people.  What are you, stupid?

      Also, you don’t get to tell White people they don’t have a culture.  Speak for yourself, and your own kind.

  • Mark Schmidt

    Who cares? The English language ‘teachers’ in Asia, whatever their race, are the biggest losers on the planet. It’s so obvious they might as well have a huge ‘L’ stamped on their foreheads. I’ve run into more than a few of them and they are all dodgey to the last man (or woman). They’d never be able to hold down a full time job in the West, and that is why they have to resort is to teaching English to Asian suckers, simply on account of the fact that the only thing they are qualified for is native English speaker. That’s not hard if you are born and raised in the US or Canada.

  • Oil Can Harry

    “All that’s missing is a young Michael Caine, Nigel Green and Stanley Baker if you catch my drift.”

    Your drift? More like Rorke’s Drift…

  • WhiteGuyInJapan

    Part of this comes from Asians thinking that the US, the UK etc are “white” countries.  The multiculturalism of most Western countries is baffling to them. 

    My first teaching job was at a large chain English school and the models used in the ads said a lot.  In a group shot of 10-15 teachers, there would be some ethnic diversity.  If they chose one teacher for an ad, it was always a tall Nordic.  There’s pictures of me in some mothers’ magazine.

    One incident comes to mind.  We had an American-born Chinese woman start teaching at one of our local branches. 

    Japanese student: “Where are you from?”
    American-born Chinese: “I’m from Los Angeles.”
    JS: “But you’re Asian.”
    ABC: “Yes, my family is from Hong Kong, but I was born in California.”
    JS: *puzzled face: “Uh, your English is really good.”
    ABC: *puzzled face*: “Uh, thanks.”

  • Carney3

    Interesting points.

    But the Chinese are not “too smart for that” – the Nationalists and Communists constantly betrayed each other and pulled their punches against the Japanese to ensure they could each destroy the other. Not to mention the several major collaborationist regimes that emerged. The history of the country in the 20th century and long before is one of constant division, turmoil, chaos, civil war, and jaw-dropping death tolls.

    And gloom-and-doomers can never quite explain why it is that serious money the world over is happy to lend the USA money at very low rates of interest if we’re so clearly headed to inevitable financial meltdown.

  • Carney3

    The growth we had was real, but the problem is that rising health care costs ate the real-dollar gains in compensation for the vast majority of workers.

    $15 trillion in debt, out of any context, sounds super scary until you factor in inflation, the size of the economy, the size of the population, and economic growth.

  • ed91

     not entirely true…….
    they also combine those preferences you listed, with the schooling of the american teacher.  For example, someone from the University of Illinois, with a degree in education, is sought after over a graduate of Ball State in general studies.

  • ed91

     well, duh………..  I don’t think you’ll find anyone on amren who doesn’t realize what they lower half of our ethnicity is like.

    • Guest

      The upper half can be pretty inarticulate as well. Even the ones who can speak relatively fluent English don’t make a lot of sense half the time.

  • ed91

     yes, won’t it be fun to be treated like the Tibetans?

  • ed91

     the orientals enjoy a freak now and then.  they are human you know.

  • Wings

    It’s not just in China, but all over Asia (India, Japan, and Korea too..and in Korea and Japan it is to a much higher extent than China). Companies like Disney English, Wall Street and EF hire anyone because they are ‘multinational’. But I mean hey, come on…the truth is that English is the language of the white person. If I was learning Chinese, I would expect to learn Chinese from a native Chinese. If I was to learn Hindi, I would expect to learn it from a native Indian. Likewise for German, and French etc. If I was to learn English, then I would expect to learn it from a native white English person- not from an Indian, not from a Chinese, not from a Filipino etc. (even if they have a British, Canadian passport etc.). Having a Canadian, British, German passport is not going to make you British, Canadian, German etc. Those non-whites should be proud of their roots and heritage. English teachers in China should be white. What happened to the good old days when Hollywood movies would show the real Westerners (remember the Milky bar kid with his blonde hair and blue eyes?). I am not a far-right member or a racist. I am a patriot. Do you see white people going to India and China and claiming to be Indian or Chinese? No. I miss the 1980s and 1970s. Britain has also lost its sense of Britishness. Its not English anymore. Whats happening to the world?

    • wings

      and you know what? I have lived and worked in China for over 10 years. I always find it weird when I come back to New York or London and I see Chinese people speaking in an American or British accent- it just looks fake. The world has gone politically correct mad…you can’t even say ‘Black Forest Cake’ anymore. Its a joke.