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Expats on the loose in Beijing (3)

By Jules Quartly  (China Daily)

08:55, March 19, 2013

Expat writers Kaitlin Solimine, Tom Carter and Matthew Polly, recount their China experiences at the book launch of Unsavory Elements, part of the Capital Literary Festival Beijing. PHOTOS BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

"I found that this dream of foreigners coming in and becoming business moguls is actually harder than you think and that's my story," he summed up.

Kaitlin Solimine arrived at the forum with her doting "Chinese dad", an impressively lively man in his 70s who she adopted as a 16-year-old during a home stay in the capital two decades ago. His presence spoke eloquently of the friendships forged between laowai and locals, while Solimine pondered the theme of nostalgia among expats.

Having lived in the country for more than 40 years, Graham Earnshaw's perspective was that each generation of new China arrivals thinks of itself as pioneers. "You could have released an expat anthology 70 years ago, and the experiences and interactions would be remarkably similar."

He said the point of the book was that it provides perspective and "recognition that the present is erected out of the past".

"It also serves a bridging role, providing the outside world with a view of China, and Chinese with a perspective on how the outside world sees them."

Former US marine Matt Muller also spoke about the mind-boggling pace of change in China and recounted his voyage, from flunking med school to belatedly finding redemption as a writer.

American Tom Carter neatly summed up this theme of foreigners finding themselves through pursuing their China dreams at the end of the forum.

"As the land of opportunity, we have kind of lost that. China is the new land of opportunity and that is why so many people like myself have come here in unprecedented numbers to reinvent themselves."

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