To be a man above men, or not, is the point for returnees

By Xiao Hao ( China Daily ) Updated: 2009-07-16 09:16:39

My friend Joe, a senior manager at a major Wall Street bank, was back in China for a short visit. I asked if he had thought about moving back, like so many of our peers who studied and worked in the US. He shook his head, "No".

"Why did you move back?" he turned the question back at me.

To be a man above men, or not, is the point for returnees

Oh, that. To make a long story short, I explained the many benefits of living in Beijing, despite the traffic, the pollution and some of the obvious restrictions: As Chinese, we get access to all walks of life and to all sorts of career opportunities difficult to nail in the US; life in Beijing is easy with cheap maids, frequent restaurant meals ...

"So you are like most of the others," he interrupted me. "You enjoy being a ren shang ren (man above other men)."

That statement struck me. For a long time I wondered if it was the primary factor motivating returnees to move back to China.

It used to be - perhaps even still is now - that going overseas was called "gold gilding". Returnees were guaranteed envied jobs at multinational corporations. But now the companies are localizing their hiring and successful local entrepreneurs have become society's heroes. A degree from abroad is no longer so gloat-worthy.

My friend Fred, who had moved to the United States with his parents at the age of 15 and graduated later from MIT, wandered from one job to another in Beijing, with no clear career track.

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