Sorry, that title is probably the ultimate China expat in-joke. The backstory: almost exactly two years ago—right as I arrived in China, in fact—there was a sudden little flurry (“flurry” meaning three, by my count) of longtime expatriates returning home and penning public declarations of their reasons for doing so. The press quickly turned this into “foreigners are leaving China en masse!” and the China expat community smelled a story ripe for ridicule. As Will Moss pointed out in his own pre-departure essay (and that is the one worth reading, plus it has links to the others that I’m not going to bother hunting down), the nature of expats is that they come to a country … stay for a while … and then move on, either to their next post or back home. Very few of us plan to stay in China permanently, and we don’t have to explain our decisions to leave.
So the fact that I am preparing to depart China in twenty-six days isn’t really notable. Nor is there anything in my reason for departure that you could use as the basis for an article about foreigners fleeing the PRC. I had a completely predictable, but very exciting, reason for buying a Shanghai-to-Newark plane ticket:
I got a job.
Starting November 12, you can find me at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in New York, where I’ll be a program officer. My primary focus will be the incredibly awesome Public Intellectuals Program (which I will endeavor to keep incredibly awesome), and I’ll also be involved in other NCUSCR projects as well.
This move has come about very suddenly—remember all the stuff I planned to do this year?—but I am one hundred percent thrilled about it. I’ve admired the National Committee and its work for years and look forward to being a part of the organization. And although it’s just a geographic coincidence, I’m really happy that I’ll once again be close to my family and friends in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
So, as Will Moss titled his post, I’m leaving China and it doesn’t mean a thing, except that I am very, very lucky to have had this opportunity open up at just the right time in my life and career. On to new things in New York.
P.S. There’s a major National Committee event taking place tonight! And you can check it out wherever you are, because the CHINA Town Hall starts with a webcast of an address by former president Jimmy Carter. I, unfortunately, will miss it because I should be on a flight to Singapore when the address is happening, but you should watch. All of you.
2 thoughts on “Why I’m Leaving China”
Congratulations and welcome back!
I’m sorry you are leaving. I enjoyed your posts from China and appreciated the insight. For example, your constant battles with the internet help explain the many business disappointments of touted companies such as Renren, Qihoo and SINA. Most US financial press has an agenda: buy, buy, buy. China’s population, growth and economic strength are presented as an endless opportunity for making money. The reality, as shown by the results of public companies with the exception of Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu and your own insights shows it’s much more complicated and risky than perceived. Good luck on your new job but hope you return.