In just a few months, the "why-I'm-leaving-China" article has become an embarrassing cliche amongst expats in China. The most notorious was from Mark Kitto, a British businessman who built (and subsequently lost) an empire of English-language magazines in the country, who announced he was leaving earlier this Summer as "You'll never be Chinese" (Kitto still hasn't actually left, by the way).
Kitto was preceded by Charles Custer of the well-known blog China Geeks, and soon everyone leaving China was letting the world know exactly why they were leaving. Before long Chinese parody site China Daily Show was offering a template for Westerners hoping to stick it to Chinese culture with a goodbye note.
As such, its remarkable that a new entry in the genre can get expats talking. But Will Moss, aka American PR boss Imagethief, managed to do that with his beautifully written and remarkably insightful post "I’m leaving China and it doesn’t mean a thing".
Moss, who has lived in Asia for 17 years and Beijing for 8 and a half, is moving back to the Bay Area, but it's nothing to do with China. It's simply a decision he's made because it was in his best interests. Here's a key paragraph:
There’s nothing sinister happening. It’s just a generational change. My cohort is largely mid-career expatriates, many of whom, like me, had their children in China. As our lives have changed, so in many cases have our expectations and needs. At the same time, the China we arrived in has also changed profoundly. Change is part of what makes China exciting, and on balance much of the change has been good. But people come looking for different things, and for some China today is less appealing or simply different than whatever they arrived looking for.
The article was so popular amongst Beijing/Shanghai expat circles that the Imagethief website briefly went down yesterday, and Moss was subject to a flood of praise on Twitter.
What made the article so popular? To hazard a guess, it's because Moss resisted the temptation to treat China as "special". But whatever the reason, the entire article is well worth a read.
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