More Expat Friends Leaving China, Its Getting Harder to Stay!

In china business by Michael Michelini14 Comments

After doing more hyper networking in China, I am meeting more and more foreigners who are coming and going….learning from those who are leaving and coming and trying to reflect on it….

This article was shared to me by Boyd Jones over the weekend and it inspired this blog post – China’s Ex-Expats: Emerging Asia Beckons, discussing how many foreigners who came to China for business are now leaving.

Many expats, blog readers, and Chinese friends ask, why did I move to China? I do have to say, one of the reasons was cheaper cost of living than USA!!! That is becoming less and less of a factory – heck, many times its more expensive to live in China than USA these days!

To organize my thoughts, I think I will take a few quotes from the article and reflect:

Expats Haven’t Found Their “Calling” in China…and Time is Running Out

Those that have recently graduated, or are aged to about 35 and haven’t yet found their way high enough up the corporate ladder

Many expats here in China feel that once “China doesn’t need them anymore, they’ll make it hard to renew passport visas and kick us out”. That is a valid concern – as Chinese love to learn…the feeling really is that once China feels they have all their own knowledge in their own people, they don’t need foreign teachers and workers…those jobs can go to their own people.

And in a way, I guess America thinks the same way about foreigners coming in as well. I can’t get upset by that. And Chinese people love to learn – they invest a lot of their money in education.

Also, I have seen many foreigners here get frustrated…and when people get frustrated they blame others and never themselves. I think its about adapting to the changing China and not seeing it for cheap products and cheap labor anymore….

China really is transitioning to another level and shouldn’t be called “developING” – its in the next stage of development and only needs high level foreigners.

But if the foreigner goes back to USA / Europe, no jobs anyway!

Both the United States and European economies are in the doldrums, and unemployment is rising.

I am working on another blog about tons of emails I’m getting of foreigners wanting to get a job in China as they maybe are having trouble getting a job in their home country. Or they want the experience in China. Or…they see the future of the world in China.

But yes, many foreigners here in China worry if they “Fail” in China and return home, they will look like failures, as well as have trouble getting jobs in America.

Many Expats Moving to SE Asia (Like manufacturing!)

Returning home isn’t either a viable or interesting option, the good news is that there are plenty of other opportunities elsewhere in Asia.

My buddy Dan Andrews enjoys himself well as an expat in Indonesia doing online businesses and “Work from anywhere” businesses.

I myself have had thoughts to leave China. I did leave in July 2010 getting many well wishes good luck in my next country from Chinese staff and friends…but kept getting dragged back for consulting and projects. The action to me seems still in China

I researched opening a company in he Philippines and then have had trouble in Philippines plenty of times. Nowhere is perfect…

Costs rising in Asia, as US dollar decreases, costs in “developing counties” increase
China and other Asian countries are not so cheap

As I was researching other places to base I met many other expats who moved from China to the Philippines. Making the move is a big commitment….but still, SE Asia to me seems like a


I want to be in a big market, where the action is. I don’t want to work in a back office doing cheap outsourced labor. Maybe that is what brought me to China – but I did realize it was a large market to sell and do business in. It was a way I got into China….to find products for my ecommerce business and as a service – but now I am working to get Chinese to America!

Its not easy ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD…and USA, and Europe over in the west are going to get tougher and tougher as the economies repair. I can complain about any place in the world!!

Yes, China is a crazy challenge….but its a big opportunity.

I’m going to continue to see foreigners come and go in China…but I’m going to try my best to commit long term here. Its survival of the fittest

And I am making the transition and the commitment to do business with Chinese.

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  1. Come relax by the pool anytime Mike when you need to blow some steam off! sounds intense up there 😉

    1. That is really really tempting Dan !! Much better than James family factory mansion …ask Chris he was there lol

      What’s the plan for Christmas

      1. NYC. TMBA house is open if you want to crash it….. 

  2. The cream always rises to the top

    1. True Chris . The easy money for early entrants is over now and its just like any business once the first stage pioneers and cowboys are done the brains and specialists move in

      Seems that rotation is happening now

  3. like the picture
    you are in right place
    do you have skype?

  4. I am moving back to USA and I do not feel like a failure. 

    In fact I find this move to be more of an opportunity for me to expand my networking and team building of engineers, programmers and more. The best of all is I will be there in Silicon Valley where the startup communities are all happening out of.China, I made money, lost money, made more money, lost more money, made even more money, lost some more money…With everything thats happened to me the past 7+ years…it was a good life~business experience. I would not be who I am today if I had not experienced all the good and bad things that I had gone through.I believe moving back will help regain my sanity, possibly find a girl who’s not after my wallet and eat some authentic Mexican food thats not $15 a plate. Maybe even drive my car in peace knowing that in USA 99% of the people follow the rules and drive properly. Or get a good nights sleep without hearing the traffic or car horns at all whee hours of the night. 

    Though while I am leaving China now, I am planning on returning to continue my manufacturing operations once I have my team of professionals built.

    1. Attila,

      China is a warzone man – I guess you take this to be directly aimed at you – but there are plenty of expat friends in China I have seen come and go…and you and others here in Shenzhen are heading out to other SE asian countries or to usa…

      I do wish you all the best brotha, we’ll still be chatting online like we do and I hope to see you start blogging more – I will be a regular reader

      1. Thanks Mike. I am happy to have become great friends with you over the short time we’ve known each other. 

        1. the power of networking and social media. Relationships are what last the most. I’m sure we’ll do more business together in the future.

  5. Hi Mike, I have been reading your blog for quite sometime now. I have to agree with you on what you have written, and I have to agree with you on move of leaving HK and living in SZ.  I can see that there will only be more opportunities in SZ, as China continue to grown.  For Start up business wise, it doesn’t really matter if you are in the import or export. If you are in the export business, you can still source from SZ or within the PRD.  If you are in the import business, you can get connect with the Chinese who has the buying power, a lot of these people are located in SZ. For what I remember, SZ has the highest earning per capita in China even higher then SH, so if you are now in the migration business, I think you are really in the right spot, you can use SZ to set yourself up, and get yourself well-known within the Chinese market, use the power of Chinese e-commerce to promote your SZ based service,  being a Westerner you will have an appreance advantage over other Chinese migration agents! Market your service and yourself on TaoBao and from time to time you can go to other province of China to do a bit of promotions.  You are in the correct geographic spot! Keep up with the good work Mike!

    1. Thanks Ryan! I do have plans to do more business in Shanghai and Hangzhou. Actually many ecommerce companies are calling me to go there soon.

      I’m glad you agree with my positioning in Shenzhen – where are you currently located? Ecommerce and Shenzhen really fit well together and I had a successful SEO training seminar today.

      Don’t worry, I’ll keep blogging my adventures and business – thanks again for reading, comments like this are what keep me motivated to stick with this blogging

      1. Hi Mike, I have just notice you have replied my comment.  I am just bit like you,
        travel a lot between HK, SZ and Donguan. I’m Heading back to HK tomorrow, generally speaking a see more opportunities in SZ for ecommerce entrepreneur then there are in HK.

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