It has the history, the art scene, and its own antiquated charm, but the simple reason why so many expats have chosen Beijing may be because it’s relatively inexpensive.
For the third year in a row, Beijing is the fifth-most expensive city in China for expats, according to a recently-released annual survey.
This year’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey ranks Hong Kong once again as China’s most expensive city, placing it fourth worldwide behind Singapore, Paris, and Zurich.
Beijing’s fifth place position follows its first-tier peers Shanghai and Shenzhen as well as Dalian. Beijing has maintained its constant position within China even though its international standing has fluctuated; last year, Beijing dropped 16 places to 47th position in much the same way it fell to 46th position in 2015.
The remaining first-tier city, Guangzhou, comes in at seventh place behind Taipei and before Qingdao.
Compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit for over 30 years, the survey compares over 400 individual price points across 160 products and services in 133 different cities. The list does not include housing prices and other factors that would make it relevant to local residents.
So although Beijing expats can enjoy living in a first-tier city without paying Shanghai-level prices, the advantage seems to come out in the wash.
As recent as 2016, Beijing was named the international city with most expensive housing rental where such costs are worth 1.2 times the average monthly salary. Meanwhile, the cost-of-living difference between Beijing and Shanghai may not be that much, estimated between 5 percent and 16 percent.