Why a former metals trader is leaving China for good after 16 years

Mark Kitto, an expat UK businessman who first went to China in 1986 as a student and a decade later returned to the country to start a career as a metals trader before going into publishing has written an in-depth explanation of why after 16 years he is permanently leaving China.

The piece – published in the The Prospect under the heading You’ll never be Chinese – has become a huge talking point in the large expat community in China and according to some reports the magazine’s website has had to be upgraded to cope with the traffic.

One commenter suggests Kitto’s only mistake was giving up metals for magazines (and so attracting the attention of authorities who, according to Kitto, “seized” his media empire in 2004) while others find much to mock in the 4,000-word piece.

Kitto says his overriding reason for leaving the country is because his children won’t receive a decent education and talks about many of the well-known problems the country is suffering from like corruption, pollution and social unrest, but he is particularly worried about the end of the Chinese building boom:

Once you’ve purchased the necessary baubles, you’ll want to invest the rest somewhere safe, preferably with a decent return—all the more important because one day you will have to pay your own medical bills and pension, besides overseas school and college fees. But there is nowhere to put it except into property or under the mattress. The stock markets are rigged, the banks operate in a way that is non-commercial, and the yuan is still strictly non-convertible. While the privileged, powerful and well-connected transfer their wealth overseas via legally questionable channels, the remainder can only buy yet more apartments or thicker mattresses. The result is the biggest property bubble in history, which when it pops will sound like a thousand firework accidents.

Read You’ll never be Chinese at Prospect Magazine.

Reuters has a new interview with Kitto titled “For expat entrepreneurs, the end of the China dream?” where the newswire also talks to a Chinese economist who believes the number one reason expats are leaving China is because rising labour costs are cutting into profits for foreign business owners.

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