This morning two things happened which both brought me to the thought of how you must be “ready to go” when you are a Western expat living in China:

  • I read news that Steven Balding, the U.S. libertarian academic lost his job at Peking University’s HSBC School of Business. He published a lengthy post on his blog describing all of the circumstances and his thoughts on the situation.

  • I caught up with an Estonian friend who left China at the beginning of this year. Since then, he’s been in Thailand, Holland, England, Ireland, and Estonia. He asks, “What’s your exit strategy?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, because every Westerner in China must have one. A number of things can happen, at any given time, which force you to leave China. I’ve made this point to others on my podcast, as well. The manta is: always be ready to go, if you have to. The cost of the thrill and excitement of China is that I’m a visitor who will never be Chinese. I will never really belong here, and my stay is temporary, even if it is extended, like Christopher Balding’s has been.

I don’t feel bad about the situation. It is what I signed up for, and the truth is that I’ve been ready to exit China for many years. I haven’t done so yet because China has treated me very well, and continues to do so, for the time being. One day I will be gone. It could be soon, or not. I am open to whatever comes.

I highly recommend you take a few minutes to read his blog post. His departure is such a big deal that it was covered by Reuters. Here are the links, along with some quotes from his post:

Read Christopher Balding’s Post on China

“China is a rising power but probably more importantly is a deeply illiberal, expansionist, authoritarian, police state opposed to human rights, democracy, free trade, and rule of law.  Just as we need to consider the state, speed, and direction of change in the United States, China has been deeply illiberal authoritarian for many years, is becoming increasingly illiberal, and is accelerating the pace of change towards greater control.  It both puzzles and concerns me having lived in China for nearly a decade as a public employee to hear Polyanna statements from China “experts” in the United States who talk about the opening and reform of China or refuse to consider the values being promoted. I was left mouth agape once when someone I would consider a liberal internationalist who values human rights informed me he was focused on business and would leave those other issues aside.  The values represented by China cannot be divorced from its rise and influence.”

Christopher Balding

“The rise of China represents a clear and explicit threat not to the United States but to the entirety of liberal democracy, human rights, and open international markets.  We see the world slowly being divided into China supported authoritarian regimes of various stripes that support its creeping illiberalism across a range of areas.”

Christopher Balding