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China's Exemplary Expats

China’s new open-door policy and spectacular growth over the past three decades has prompted droves of westerners to make the leap to the Middle Kingdom. The total number of expatriates presently living in China reached over half a million in 2010. Expatriates can be seen in nearly every provincial city in China, Shanghai and Beijing of course hosting most of them.

Life in China for expatriates today is not as difficult as in years past. The living standard in China's largest cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai is as enjoyable as that of the western cities like New York, London and Paris.

Some expats find Chinese culture confusing, most consider it fascinating. The stable development of society and economy and rich job opportunities are all positive factors that attract more and more expatriates to come live, work and travel in China.

Expatriates in China are mainly employed in the information technology, education and finance sectors. In larger cities, there are also many expatriates who earn a living by opening their own western style restaurants and bars. Then there are those who have become celebrities in their own rights, either from capitalizing on their western face for television, by blogging about current events, or publishing memoirs of their adventures.

Following is a sampling of China's most extraordinary expats living there today, and how they found their respective fortunes and/or fame and/or infamy.

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  1. 21

    Michelle Garnaut


    In 1989, Australian chef Michelle Garnaut opened M at the Fringe in the historic Dairy Farm building and changed dining culture in Hong Kong at least five years before her competition caught on. A decade later, she opened M on the Bund in Shanghai, turning a stately and taciturn Bund building into an elegant wining and dining destination, where she also launched the city’s first Literary Festival, followed by the opening of the hugely-popular Glamour Bar.

  2. 22

    Chris Thrall


    In 1995, UK-born Royal Marine Chris Thrall came to Hong Kong to make his fortune. Once here, his business went bankrupt, and a series of unsuccessful jobs led him to work in Wan Chai as a doorman for one of the biggest triad groups, the 14K. Dwelling in the criminal underworld drove him to drugs; he became addicted to crystal methamphetamine, and suffered from clinical psychosis. Now, 15 years on, he is ready to tell his story, in his new book, Eating Smoke.

  3. 23

    Darren Russell (R.I.P.)


    In 2004, Darren Russell, 35, went to China to teach English. His mother says his contract promised many things that didn't materialize, including a work visa. when Darren threatened to blow the whistle on the school's poor working conditions, his passport was confiscated and he was forcibly removed from the school campus. Three days later, Darren dead body was found in a ditch. The Chinese police claim he was hit by a vehicle but refused to release Darren's body to his mother in America unless she agreed with their "official" version of the case. An autopsy conducted later in the U.S. revealed that, in fact, Darren's head had been beaten in. Darren's unfortunate case is a prime example China's lack of enforceable laws from the top-down.

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