I’ve posted that American expatriates living in China have increased my learning curve. Having met more than fifty U.S.A. born expatriates that now live in China (and even more non-U.S western expats), there are similarities in their view of the United States. In my experience there are very few that are interested in moving back to the U.S. anytime soon.
When I first noticed this a few years ago I thought it was interesting yet not surprising given China’s stratospheric rise (recent difficulties notwithstanding) and the ability to live well in China by western standards. But over time these expats seem to have a nearly universal displeasure with what’s going on in the U.S. That the U.S. has its problems is no secret, but turning a cold shoulder to the U.S. as a whole bothers me. Far from perfect, the U.S. may not always be the shining city on the hill but it’s still the most desired places to live on the planet. That has not changed.
The converse is also true. Most of the Chinese expats that I know who live in the U.S. are in no great hurry to move back to China. From what I have seen the longer Chinese expats live in the U.S. the less likely they are to ever return to China. Freedom does have a nice ring to it.
Fugitive Edward Snowden has set back Sino-U.S. relations (Russia-U.S. relations were not all that good to begin with and I don’t think the U.S. is all that concerned with its Ecuadorian relations), with his release of intelligence gathered by the U.S. on China, Hong Kong, and U.S. citizens among others. While I will offer no opinion on Mr. Snowden’s patriotism or lack thereof, the aftermath is that an even larger mistrust is growing between the Chinese and U.S. governments. At the same time there appear to be increasing feelings of mistrust and misunderstanding between the people of both countries.
Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t Americans living in China (for example) simply enjoy, even prefer, living in China since in their case it fits their lifestyle and offers the ability to live in an amazingly interesting time in China? But it goes way beyond that. There’s a snootiness to many American expats living in China that they are not only on the cutting edge of an expanding China market, but in rejecting the boring and mundane American way of life they are somehow living a more enlightened life. I suspect most of the expats I’ve met that have expressed that sentiment would categorically deny it but I’ve seen and heard it first-hand and don’t like it.
Chinese expats that live in the U.S. relish the freedoms that are inherent in the U.S. and those same Chinese are not all that surprised that the U.S. is monitoring communications and individuals. The difference is that Americans in the U.S. have a collective sense of outrage at surveillance policies that have gone undisclosed – a debate that should be undertaken in my opinion. As Winston Churchill once said – “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” The Chinese just expect that they are being watched and at any time could be thrown in jail in China for no obvious reason. That’s state-sponsored socialism for you folks. I prefer the ‘imperfect’ democracy alternative.
American and western expats that live in China should think twice about bashing their home countries.