Balding Out

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal. A long essay, but worth the read if you’re interested in someone’s perspective on China and the U.S.  DLH]

Balding Out
By Christopher Balding
Jul 17 2018

I am leaving China. After nine years working for the HSBC Business School of Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School as a professor teaching international trade, negotiations, and ethics, I am leaving China.  In early November 2017, the HSBC Business School informed me they would not renew my contract.  In March 2018 they informed me they wished to sever all ties by April 1, 2018.

I leave thankful for the time I spent in Shenzhen, China, and working with elite students in China. Despite technical protections, I knew and accepted the risks of working for the primary university in China run by the Communist Party in China as a self professed libertarian.  Though provided an “official” reason for not renewing my contract, my conscience is clean and I can document most everything that demonstrates the contrary should I ever need to prove otherwise. I know the unspoken reason for my dismissal. You do not work under the Communist Party without knowing the risks.

Living in China over the past nine years has been an amazing experience both personally and professionally. Working in China as an academic is like being placed in the greatest economics, finance, and business lab which has been shockingly unexplored. In addition to doing some academic research, I felt blessed to write and speak for different organizations from Bloomberg to Foreign Policy.  For someone who suffers from academic ADD (a difficulty spending 3 years on a paper that will appear in print 2-4 years later), I felt blessed to be able to dive into Chinese data everyday exploring aspects that most in my position simply do not get to explore.

Watching the change first hand while diving into the data and being able to write about it has been a profound privilege and honor. I felt a profound responsibility to get it right and tell you what I was seeing and hearing. I still remember the first time I got an email from someone at Bloomberg who would ultimately edit a lot of my work, I thought for sure it was a spam email. I did not even respond for a few days because up until that point I thought my Mom was probably the only person reading my work.

Personally, two of my three children have been born here (one under the wildest of circumstances which I must relate at a later date) and they have grown up attending Chinese language elementary schools. One of the things I am most proud of for my time in China is that my children speak, read, and write age fluent Chinese and whenever they see Chinese children in airports or on playgrounds in Shenzhen interact seamlessly.  When I first came to China, my focus was international trade and I wanted to live overseas for a while but knew relatively little about China. Though we told ourselves, we will stay until it was time to go, we probably though we would stay 3 years and leave. Nine years later, our family is glad we came and bittersweet to be leaving.

For many months as I looked at different options, both in China and globally, I struggled with where exactly to go. For personal and professional, I hoped to stay in China, Hong Kong, or Asia.  However, after quietly sharing my situation with a small number of people and some things I was told unrelated to my personal situation, it became abundantly clear that I could not stay in China. China has reached a point where I do not feel safe being a professor and discussing even the economy, business, and financial markets.  Better to leave on your own terms than being deported after receiving an 8-10 year visa.  As a result, I have decided to leave China.  I will announce my future plans, projects, and activities later though I am quite excited about where I will be going what I will be doing.

I want to make perfectly clear that any complaints I wrote about in any forum are reflective only of my concerns about the illiberal, authoritarian communist government of China and not the Chinese people.  Most professor colleagues, even those I would consider pro-Party, were good colleagues whom I enjoyed talking, debating(yes, it happens behind closed doors and I learned a lot from them) and working with.  The Chinese friends I made outside of the work place from people we met in overlapping social circles to neighbors to parents of my children’s school mates were always friendly and helpful ready to assist a foreigner struggling to navigate some of the basics of life in China.  My children whether at Chinese language schools or local rec centers, were always treated well and made friends.  I will use strong language about the authoritarian communist government but I do not want that in anyway to reflect upon the Chinese people.


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