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71,493 Americans live in China

July 13, 2011

U.S. expatriates pursue American dream in China

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

 JIANKOU GREAT WALL, China — His sweat pools quickly as Carl Setzer carries another heavy sack of smoked malt into his farmhouse-turned-brewery beside the Great Wall of China near Beijing.

  • Cleveland native Carl Setzer, 29, delights in using unusual ingredients at his popular Beijing microbrewery.By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAYCleveland native Carl Setzer, 29, delights in using unusual ingredients at his popular Beijing microbrewery.

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

Cleveland native Carl Setzer, 29, delights in using unusual ingredients at his popular Beijing microbrewery.

“I’m living the American dream, just not in America,” says the Cleveland native, 29, who brews through the night with unusual ingredients like Sichuan peppercorn to produce craft beers unique in China, and the world.

Setzer typifies a new breed of young Americans, China-savvy and Chinese-speaking, who share the pluck, patience and grit necessary to pursue their diverse dreams here.

After South Koreans, U.S. citizens had formed the second-largest national group among the nearly 600,000 foreigners living on the Chinese mainland at the end of 2010, says China’s national statistics bureau.

At a time when many Americans back home worry whether fast-rising China is out to eat their lunch, the number of Americans living on the Chinese mainland has reached a record high of 71,493, according to Chinese census bureau figures released in April.

In addition, more than 60,000 Americans live in Hong Kong, according to the U.S. State Department. A 2005 estimate of 110,000 Americans living in China included Hong Kong residents. Another 430,000 people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau lived in China at the end of 2010, but Beijing does not count them as foreign residents.

Those wishing to join them face challenges ranging from a lengthy licensing process, language barriers, intrusive government agencies and disrespect for intellectual property rights in which political concerns sometimes trump economic ones.

The 2011 China Business Climate Survey of American commerce in China conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce found China is a complex business culture where burdensome licensing procedures and indigenous innovation policies are seen as favoring Chinese companies over foreign ones. Yet 83% of those surveyed said they still planned to increase investment in China operations this year.

Some Americans in China have seen decades of dramatic change, from radical Maoism to cutthroat capitalism. Today, newbies arrive daily to take up jobs or hunt them down, in what has become the world’s second-largest economy behind the USA‘s. Many work for Fortune 500 firms or U.S. agencies. Others come to teach, study, volunteer, travel, blog and party.

To boost mutual understanding in what is an often tense relationship between the nations, Washington and Beijing are ramping up people-to-people exchanges, including a drive to send 100,000 U.S. students to China over the next four years.

“There are a lot of really bright young Americans who are here in business or studying, and they are building great bridges between the USA and China,” says Thomas Skipper, minister counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

More here.

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