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Did you catch the stamp of wisdom by others who tread along a similar path as mi
A guide to success in China, by Americans who live there|
By Calum MacLeod (USA TODAY)
Updated: 2005-11-18 15:14
The number of Americans living in China has reached a historic high of 110,000. They are teachers, hairdressers, diplomats, travelers, students and business fat cats. There's even a bluegrass banjo player and singer who is scheduled to perform in Mandarin here Friday night.
What kind of advice about dealing with the Chinese can American expatriates pass along to President Bush, who comes through Saturday night for a state visit?
Take a long-term view, they say. Ensure your expectations are realistic. Show respect by soaking in some Chinese history. Dealing with the Chinese is a contact sport, so work on relationships — but have fun.
Some insights from Americans who have built a life in China:
Persistence pays off
When author Peter Hessler moved from Columbia, Mo., to a small town on the Yangtze River town as a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in 1996, he says he saw signs everywhere that said "No Foreigners Allowed" and even "repare for War" — relics of an era of deep mistrust between China and the rest of the world. He says he didn't feel like "a representative of America, but had to accept I was seen as that."
He found that the key to finding acceptance was mastering the Chinese language. That opened up a society that was, in fact, curious about the outside world after decades of isolation. He found out that America and China have a lot in common.
"The longer I live here, the more similarities I see between the USA and China," says Hessler, 36, whose book River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze was published by HarperCollins in 2001. "Besides the similarity in (geographical) size, there's no single language or ethnic group, so it's amazing that China works, and the U.S., too."
He adds, "These are two incredibly powerful cultures that have attracted other peoples."
Hessler encourages other Americans here to study Chinese because it shows respect for the culture. He also notes that today more people are studying English in China than speaking it in the USA.
His next book, Oracle Bones, due in April, will explore Chinese-U.S. themes.
His advice: Be persistent.
"I learned the need to be patient, persistent and not easily intimidated," he says.
Patience is profitable
Businessman Peter Zenello, 48, learned the hard way about the importance of communication. "When I arrived to study in 1984, China really was a hardship tour. The Chinese were afraid to sit down and talk to you," he says.
Zenello, from Plymouth, Mass., finally found language partners in a public park near the imperial lakes of Beijing, where toothless old men paraded their caged birds and sang opera. Today the Shichahai neighborhood is a bustling district of bars and restaurants popular with the expatriate community and the capital's nouveau riche.
In 1987, Zenello joined pioneering U.S. firm Chindex, which distributes medical equipment here. Never forgetting that "doing business in China is a fight," Zenello and colleagues earned "face" locally by staying in China after the government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Many other foreign firms pulled out.
As China sped up on the road to capitalism, Zenello's ambitions grew. Eventually, he established distribution networks for other medical companies and now works with his Chinese wife — their company is called Mei United — to export Inner Mongolian sheep products and bring American jazz performances and education to China.
His advice: Be patient.
"China can be a land of opportunity. But many foreigners leave their brains at home. If you know the system, have the time and patience, you can get things done, and that's what makes it exciting."
Dancing brings discovery
Dancer Aly Rose says she has had many exciting moments in China.
While taking a Chinese-language exam in the southwestern city of Kunming in 1999, a brick smashed through a window. It had been thrown at her by protesters angry about the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, during U.S.-led NATO airstrikes.
"I was really scared," says the Galveston, Texas, native. "I thought I was close to this country, but I had become an enemy of the state." She decided to stay, however, and now calls China home.
In 2002, Rose became the first Westerner to graduate from the Beijing Dance Academy, one of Asia's finest. Her teachers never used her name. Instead, they called her "Little American Girl." "I didn't exist as myself. I existed as a country," she says.
Rose, in her early 30s, has prospered here. She has won plaudits and prizes for her choreography and dance. She even brought Broadway to China as choreographer for Lady in the Dark, the first Broadway musical produced on a Chinese stage.
Restrictions on artistic freedom sometimes leave Rose feeling as if she is "dancing with a ball and chain." But she treasures the chance to work in partnership with Chinese dancers and to create "things that have never been seen before."
Her advice: Embrace a new way of life.
"It's like stepping on another planet and breathing a new type of air. But it's more than a whole different culture, there's a whole different worldview and history," she says. "And you don't get anywhere by challenging it."
Pack a strong backbone, too, Rose adds, and be yourself. China is a great place "if you can be spontaneous, ... enjoy the one-on-one with the Chinese people — and be willing to laugh at yourself."
Lifted from: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-11/18/content_496014.htm