The response to my farewellby Mark Kitto / September 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
For the August issue of Prospect I wrote an article entitled, “You’ll never be Chinese”. I expressed thoughts and ideas I have held for some time, backed up by observations and personal experiences from 16 years in China. It was not easy to write. Much of it was negative. I was keenly aware that I might upset my friends and family in China. I had also naively expected the words to come flooding out, rather like a sigh of relief. I found myself choking on them. It’s hard to say goodbye.
The article is proving a challenge to live with as well. Thanks to it being freely available online, the readership has been far greater than expected. It was published as I left the UK, where I had been doing a recce for our move, and flew back to China. The first person to comment was at the baggage carousel in Pudong Airport. For approximately one week, I heard from foreign friends and acquaintances in China. The consensus was: “Good points, we all agree, but we can’t say so because we have interests to protect.” Those who had already left China were less inhibited. I watched as the comments piled up on the Prospect website. It was good to see old friends, and enemies, put in their five cents. It was more of a challenge to spot the notorious “fifty cent” gang, the commentators encouraged by the authorities to help with “soft power projection.” They can be subtle.