Mark Kitto studied in China, lived in China for many years, married in China, built two businesses in China, but he has now decided to leave.
Death and taxes. You know how the saying goes. Iâ€™d like to add a third certainty: youâ€™ll never become Chinese, no matter how hard you try, or want to, or think you ought to. I wanted to be Chinese, once. I donâ€™t mean I wanted to wear a silk jacket and cotton slippers, or a Mao suit and cap and dye my hair black and proclaim that blowing your nose in a handkerchief is disgusting. I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. For the past 16 years it has been precisely that. But now I will be leaving. …
Deng had promised the Chinese people material wealth they hadnâ€™t known for centuries on the condition that they never again asked for political change. The Party said: â€œTrust us and everything will be all right.â€
Twenty years later, everything is not all right.
I must stress that this indictment has nothing to do with the trajectory of my own China career, which went from metal trading to building a multi-million dollar magazine publishing business that was seized by the government in 2004, followed by retreat to this mountain hideaway of Moganshan where my Chinese wife and I have built a small business centred on a coffee shop and three guesthouses, which in turn has given me enough anecdotes and gossip to fill half a page of Prospect every month for several years. That our current business could suffer the same fate as my magazines if the local government decides not to renew our short-term leases (for which we have to beg every three years) does, however, contribute to my decision not to remain in China.
During the course of my magazine business, my state-owned competitor (enemy is more accurate) told me in private that they studied every issue I produced so they could learn from me. They appreciated my contribution to Chinese media. They proceeded to do everything in their power to destroy me. In Moganshan our local government masters send messages of private thanks for my contribution to the resurrection of the village as a tourist destination, but also clearly state that I am an exception to their unwritten rule that foreigners (who originally built the village in the early 1900s) are not welcome back to live in it, and are only allowed to stay for weekends.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Bird Dog.