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Go East, young man

Updated: 2012-12-30 09:33
By Erik Nilsson and Thomas Hale (China Daily)

Go East, young man

Looking for work in his field, Christopher Russell started working for ACN Worldwide in Shanghai China.

It used to be that the buzzword was "Go West, young man". But in the 21st century, it is China which attracts the young and adventurous. Erik Nilsson and Thomas Hale report.

They come for the adventure. They stay for the jobs. Foreigners coming to China for excitement and work is nothing new, but today's imported talent, like 28-year-old American Nick Wester, is younger and higher-caliber. Wester heeded the call of former US national security advisor Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, who served under Jimmy Carter, who spoke at his university and told graduates to go East.

The American was selected immediately after graduation from Brigham Young University to found Eleutian Technology's China branch.

For Wester, it was equal parts adventure and career that prompted the move.

"Three-hundred years ago, if you wanted to do what was best for your family, you'd sell all you own and move to the USA.

"Today, the best thing you can do for your family is to sell all you own and move to China."

So, he did, moving to Liao-ning province's Dalian, before settling in Beijing in 2010. But Wester already had an inkling of what he was getting into and why it was a good move.

He had done an internship in 2008 with a US furniture company in a village of 200 people outside of Guangzhou "two hours from any McDonalds".

"That was my welcome to China experience," Wester says.

"It was the moment I realized China is the place to be. That was when I realized what the growth really was. If you go to Beijing or Shanghai, you feel like China is already there. But if you go to the places where the majority of the population lives, you see the growth that will take place."

The New World refrain articulated by Horace Greeley in 1865 - "Go West, young man; Go West, and grow up with the country" - persisted to later lure Europeans and people from the economically emerging world.

But the direction of human relocation is also starting to stream in reverse. "Go East, young man" might be the new mantra.

American Roderick Leung's story demonstrates the U-turn. Leung has inadvertently followed the route his Chinese emigrant parents took to the United States - but in reverse.

"We both probably had the same idea, this was going to be the next big thing and we wanted to be on the ground when it hit," he says.

But he says it was "100 percent adventure" that originally drew him to China.

The 27-year-old Microsoft project assistant says his motivations have changed in the two years he has lived in China. Now, they're about 70 percent career and 30 percent adventure.

Canadian Clinton Hendry, who moved to Beijing three years ago at age 23, puts it this way: "China's like the Wild West but on the other side of the world. China has become the destination for the new 'Lost Generation' to seek adventure."

He likens it to how early 20th-century Spain lured such global nomads as Ernest Hemingway, who popularized the Lost Generation concept.

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