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.
Dominic "Plastered" Johnson-Hill
Dominic Johnson-Hill is a former backpacker from the UK who now runs Plastered T-shirts, the startup he founded in 2005 which does about $800,000 a year in sales. When Dominic first arrived in China, he had little to his name - but the guy knew how to hustle. A passionate love for China got him plenty of media attention. And he made the most of each press opportunity, such as appearing on a popular Chinese TV show wearing a t-shirt that featured his shop’s phone number. Plastered’s iconic fashion brand, which is known for visualizing creative twists on everyday elements of Beijing life, has since earned the easy going British businessmen celebrity status amongst local Beijingers.
Mark Kitto, author of Chasing China (aka "China Cuckoo"), made the great leap from the intense commercial chaos of Shanghai and a groundbreaking career as an English language magazine publisher, to running a coffee shop in a beautiful, but isolated mountain village. Five years ago, Mark Kitto was described as a 'mini media mogul' in China but that came to a brutal end after greedy Chinese investors (with the help of China’s fluid legal system) stole his entire media conglomerate away from him. Now Kitto leads a vastly different life on a mountain in a tiny Chinese village called Moganshan with his Chinese born wife and two young children.
Cecilie Gamst Berg
Hong Kong-based Norwegian Cecilie Gamst Berg is the author Blonde Lotus, a female expat memoir published in English and Norwegian in 2006. She has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong, Norway and Beijing and currently keeps two blogs. She presently works for RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) making weekly radio programs about Cantonese and, for the last two years, has been engaged in film making, putting her Cantonese course on YouTube as well as making documentaries about people's daily lives in Hong Kong.
Graham Earnshaw is a CEO and the publisher of China Economic Review and Earnshaw Books. He has a varied background, including a career as a journalist during which he served as Beijing bureau chief for both Reuters and the London Daily Telegraph, and Reuters editor for Asia. He has written a number of books, including a China travel guide, the translation of a Chinese kung fu novel, published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, tales of Old Shanghai, published in 2008, and The Great Walk of China, published in 2010. He plays and writes music and has commercially issued two CDs of his own songs. He has lived mostly in Shanghai since 1995 and believes that the f*ture of the world is being created in two places -- the Internet and China.