Home > Uncategorized > Before “Why Leaving China,” Why They Went To China.

Before “Why Leaving China,” Why They Went To China.

A short commentary of commentary this time.

A little while back, a few Expat “tossed the room” before they packed up and left China, by explaining in detail their “reasons” for leaving.  (With nothing but their own confessed reasons, perceptions, etc.)

We didn’t bother to question them much about those reasons.  Hey, who are we to question their motives?  It’s their personal choices.

But we also didn’t really ask the question that they didn’t bother to answer themselves:  If China was so awfully full of problems (which they must have known to start with), why did they go to China in the first place?

Well, I found a little confession from an Expat online recently that might explain it, and I thought I share it here.  (I cannot verify the identity of the person, so I’m NOT going to trace his/her history or background on this one).


xxxxxxx says:

I do sympathize a bit with Yu’s position here, and as you say, most foreigners have found themselves in a similar position at one point or another. During my brief period of work as an English teacher, I once found myself at what I was originally told would be a class but ended up being the company wanting me to impersonate a British fertilizer executive. By the time I realized fully what was going on, it was already happening, and in the interest of keeping my job, I ended up doing it, although I did a rather intentionally shitty job of it and quit that gig fairly soon afterwards.

That said, though, I think the ethical alarm bells have got to go off before the point where you’re asking questions of State leaders at the Party Congress. As you say, many good China reporters got their start in Chinese state media; but it’s also worth saying that many of those people left Chinese media jobs because they reached a point or a realization that what they were being asked to do was unethical (not to mention personally damaging). Very few of us get the opportunity to ask questions of State leaders, but I’d like to think that most people, if presented with the kind of opportunity Angela Yu was given, would hear the alarm bells and back out beforehand.

That is, in essence, saying that she should have just quit her job on principle, which I realize is a lot to ask of anyone. But she must have realized what she was doing when she got the questions she was supposed to ask, if not before then, and at that point I think most aspiring journalists would think, ‘OK, this is obviously crossing a line that I can’t cross.’ And in the long-term, having crossed that line is probably going to be more damaging to her career than quitting her job would have been damaging in the short term (though I don’t know her financial situation so perhaps I’m wrong).

Of course, all this discussion of Yu is sort of missing the forest for the trees. The forest is that the Chinese government is apparently looking to replace the foreign press with “foreign” “press” (at least to some extent) at official events. That’s not too surprising, but it is concerning.

In this relevant passage, the Expat literally confesses to participating in a scam to “impersonate a British fertilizer executive”.  Now, it sounds pretty illegal, or at least implied by the Expat as rather unethical and corrupt.

The Expat’s reason for participating in this rather distasteful activity?  To “keep my job”, according to him.

The “Keep My Job” Expat apparently was willing NOT to just risk ethics, morals, principles, but also do it while suffering the other assortment of bad things in China, such as air pollution, poison in the food, etc.

Well, there you have it, the priority of an Expat’s ethics list:  #1 “keep my job”.

Notably also, his “keep my job” justification sounded pretty hollow in the same comment when he criticized journalist Angela Yu for “crossing a line that I can’t cross”, even though in reality, Angela Yu was actually doing things far more clearly legal and ethical (such as asking the questions that her employer wanted her to ask, instead of just her own).

I also have no doubt that a variety of excuses and other circumstantial justifications may follow for the “Keep My Job” Expat on his confession of unethical conduct.  He already included ones like “intentionally doing shitty job”, to “quit the gig soon afterwards,” as if such excuses can UNCROSS the line he had admitted crossing.

Well, no need to justify any thing, we are not here to judge ETHICS of “KEEP MY JOB” Expat, just to illuminate his PRIORITIES and motives for why he was in China in the first place.

We didn’t expect the “KEEP MY JOB” Expat to be altruistic to start with, but at least now, he admits his motives as at least mercenary enough to “impersonate” someone he was not.

What else has he “impersonated” that he was not??  How far would he take his pretenses in the keeping or pursuit of a “job”??

The lesson here is rather simple.  People are just People.  Most People are susceptible to corruption of ethics for personal interests or gains.

Though, it is hard to imagine how some “KEEP MY JOB” Expat have the ethical soapbox to stand on to ridicule others as mercenary.  (it’s nice that you are willing to admit your mistakes, but that doesn’t make you a Saint, it only confirms that you didn’t have much ethical credibility to start with).

And I’m sure this was not the only “KEEP MY JOB” Expat.  Others in the same discussion sympathized with the same “KEEP MY JOB” motive, albeit didn’t quite stray so far into the realm of immorality of “impersonation”.

Like I said, we didn’t expect altruism in the Expats.  They are only human.  And it’s not like they pass any moral character exams before going to China.

So, “KEEP MY JOB” Expats.

Do yourselves a favor and drop your pretenses and impersonations, and get off your moral high horse.  We all know why you went to China.  1 of you confessed to it and made jackasses of you all, NOT because of his past conducts, but because MANY of you are still trying just as hard as he in justifying your “KEEP MY JOB” as some kind of holier than thou goal.


Side note:  As a lawyer, I note that the confessed conduct of the “KEEP MY JOB” Expat may actually be in the area covered by the “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” (FCPA) of 1977, which states that it is illegal for US citizens or residents to act in furtherance of a foreign corrupt practice, which may include rendering any services of value (no matter how “shitty” of a job was done).  And there is no legal excuses of “KEEP MY JOB” under the FCPA.

I note this to explain a relevant US law, and to warn others to be aware of potential legal issues arising from such conducts.

Of course, it is also possible that the “KEEP MY JOB” Expat was just entirely exaggerating his experiences as some kind of personal encounter with corruption in China.

But hey, I’m not judging, and I’m not the authority to prosecute any one under the FCPA.  (But I imagine that if some day that “KEEP MY JOB” Expat applies for any US Federal Government related job or funding, even for contracts, he might have to explain his little confession in a lot more detail to Uncle Sam.  Or the IRS can also ask questions.  It’s kind of difficult to NOT ask questions when people admit to “impersonate” ____ while in China.)


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  1. March 7th, 2013 at 23:15 | #1

    Zack – I don’t think that comment was appropriate.

  2. Zack
    March 8th, 2013 at 00:34 | #2

    sorry, YinYang, you’ll have to excuse my rather profane speech 😉

  3. Mch27
    March 10th, 2013 at 08:39 | #3

    “We all know why you went to China. 1 of you confessed to it and made jackasses of you all.”

    Are you trying to paint the whole of the expatriate community in China with the same brush, just because of this one scumbag guy?

  4. Black Pheonix
    March 10th, 2013 at 09:13 | #4

    My comments are directed at the “KEEP MY JOB” Expats. Not all expats.

    Not at all the “same brush”.

    Plenty of expats who view China as more than just a “job” or a stepping stone in their career. They go to China not for the reputation, the novelty, the “opportunities”, etc. They are there for a different perspective from China, NOT to “learn” about China through their own preconceived perspectives.

    Unfortunately, too many expats do go to China as transient “Keep my job” types. Especially because the Western economies were in the dumps, and China presented them greater opportunities. They even openly admit it on their blogs.

    “This one scumbag guy” actually drew some SYMPATHIES from other expats, for his decision to participate in a scam!! You can read it in the blog linked in the article.

    So, he’s not the ONLY 1, apparently.

  5. Zack
    March 10th, 2013 at 14:35 | #5

    so given that Custer admitted to taking part in a crime, would this have anything to do with his ahem urgent departure from China?

  6. Black Pheonix
    March 10th, 2013 at 18:08 | #6


    Doesn’t really matter in any case.

    The “Keep My Job” Expats were going to leave sooner or later. Perhaps some of them just leave because their past “friends” were blackmailing them. But really, where can they run to, without their pasts catching up sooner or later?

    I’m sure that “Keep my job” Expat’s “impersonation” deeds are all on some video somewhere. It’s only a matter of time before it is found.

  7. aeiou
    March 12th, 2013 at 05:23 | #7

    Western expats are simply privileged tourists, that’s all. They love to think of themselves as tolerant open minded egalitarians but what they really like is to be able to live as though they were still in the west while afforded all advantages of diplomatic immunity and if they don’t get their way it’s automatically the fault of the host country. So, until you start seeing American start dry cleaning business in China or run 7/11 in India, treat them with all the disdain that shitty expats deserve. Come to think of it probably won’t be long until whites become minorities in their own country, so they probably won’t need travel far anymore.


    Such treatment made me realise I would never been an expat – only an immigrant. It seems it’s impossible to be an Indian expatriate. Even Lakshmi Mittal, the richest man in Britain, and an Indian passport holder, wouldn’t dare to call himself an expat.

    So what is the difference? It seems expats have a special prerogative. It is an entitlement with far-reaching consequences. Not long ago, I won a free trip to the Caribbean. On my flight was a senior executive from a large London-listed company heading back to his tax-haven paradise in the Bahamas. He had been an expat for nearly 25 years. The Londoner loathed Britain and its tax regime. He foamed at the mouth and gesticulated wildly as he nursed a glass with fluctuating levels of scotch.

    I learned of his disgust at the dross pouring into his once-beloved country and the horrifying prospect of them benefiting from his tax money. I nodded gamely as he told me how he hated immigrants and wished they would all bugger off to where they came from. Then he leaned back, closed his eyes, clucked his tongue, and said: “It’s a good thing we have tame natives in the Caribbean. None of that PC nonsense.”

    The British in Spain number close to a million, and they positively abhor being called immigrants. The most common argument given by the expat community is that they contribute to the local economy, take nothing, and create jobs. They are not job-seeking flotsam and, after all, where would the Manuels and the Josés be without their money.

  8. Black Pheonix
    March 12th, 2013 at 07:00 | #8


    Yes, they do abhor being called / considered as “immigrants”, and they don’t try.

    On that same note, I think they know they just don’t have what it takes to be “immigrants”, which usually means that you have to work and toil HARDER than everyone else to earn the citizenship.

    I mean, Chinese and Irish Immigrants in US had to toil in life threatening conditions to build railroads, work in mines, etc.

    And the likes of the “Keep MY job” Expats whine about the smog, and storm out?

    Honestly, they are just losers who can’t make it on their own.

    Being “immigrant” means, you don’t get to claim any of the privileges of your “home country”, and make it on ONLY on your hard work.

    Millions of Chinese immigrants work outside of China, without any benefits from being “Chinese”.

  9. Zack
    March 12th, 2013 at 12:59 | #9

    @Black Pheonix
    the thing is, when a white man comes to China, he has the option of joining the community of expats who unfortunately live like they’re still in the colonial era. Fortunately, some individuals are genuine in their desire to learn from and respect Chinese culture, but unfortunately, there are those who maintain a colonial mindset. These are the indiviudals who refuse to participate in any sort of Chinese related event unless they get something out of it for eg, free food.
    Most of the expats don’t intend on staying to live in China; they’re just there for work, or to exploit the Chinese for their own personal gain. Unless you’re the Jim Rogers type who decides on living in China to raise your kids at some point, you’re not going to attach any sort of deep importance to China other than a goldmine.

  10. Black Pheonix
    March 12th, 2013 at 14:55 | #10


    Yes, China showed them hospitality, and they abused it thoroughly.

    When my wife was in college in Shanghai, she had a roommate from US. That American girl spends most of her time out partying. She asked my wife for “help” for her classes. My wife tried to be nice and help, but it became very clear quickly that she just wanted my wife to do her homework for her.

    I told my wife at the time to stop helping that “parasite”, (and yes, she was a parasite. On that 1 case, I do agree with Yang Rui).

    But my wife was just too nice.

    Well, my wife learned later to stand up for herself.

    Soon enough, China will learn to do that as well. Yang Rui was a good start.

    And China is becoming very competitive. Expats, like it or not, will be treated like “immigrants” sooner or later.

    “Journalists”, better behave, or no work permit / press cards for you.

    CNN, you want to operate in China? Better hire locals, and show your financial statements.

  11. Zack
    March 12th, 2013 at 16:04 | #11

    @Black Pheonix
    wow, blackphoenix, that truly is disgusting, the behaviour of your wife’s american roommate. The sad thing is that these aren’t exceptions, this disgusting behaviour is the norm as i discovered years ago when i worked in China.

    As China progresses, there’s going to be less and less need for such ‘foreign workers’. Given, the only job most of these expats seem qualified to do is to teach english and i’ve personally known many of these individuals who’ve had a poorer grasp of english than a non native speaker. A lot of these expats will try to leverage their ‘experience in China’ when they apply for jobs, but tbh, if i were hiring, i’d be wanting to know exactly what they did in China. Conversing in mandarin for a period would be mandatory in such an instance.

    On the matter of journalists, a strong lesson should be conveyed to the likes of melissa chan and other propagandists of the Western Elite. Media objectivity and journalism are one thing, constant harassment and unprofessionalism will not be tolerated. By rights, Qatar ought to be more objective with their reporting, yet they fail to fulfil even the most basic of journalistic requirements. Perhaps the Emir ought to be taught a lesson…

  12. Black Pheonix
    March 13th, 2013 at 08:54 | #12


    Yeah, it was really messed up.

    It got to the point when my wife was actively avoiding her roommate at times. I was really upset with that whole situation, but I was in US and I couldn’t help her.

    It made me really mad, because the Chinese school pulled all the stops to be nice to the foreign student “guests”. The students got financial aid, paid by Chinese tax money. They got up scaled rooms. Normally in that school, the Chinese students have to board 6-8 in a single room. Those foreign students got 2 person rooms (which would have costed extra money from the Chinese students).

    Boy, don’t you just wish that American schools would do that for their “immigrant” students?

    Yeah, in which fantasy dream?

    When I was in school in US, I lived in the “student ghetto” neighborhood of my school, on my parents’ meager earnings, and I had part time jobs while I was full time in school.

    So, NO, I don’t give much credit to the likes of the “Keep my job” Expats in China, because frankly, on the grand scale of things, most of the “keep my job” Expats are on the loser end of the population.

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