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Taking the good with the bad, it's not actually ugly - or we'd leave

By Jules Quartly | China Daily | Updated: 2012-05-23 13:30

Like all papers, we report "bad news" about China - things like rampant piracy, toxic food and 18 people passing by an injured child. I do, all the time. Unfortunately, this gives a distorted impression of the country.

Taking the good with the bad, it's not actually ugly - or we'd leave

Actually, there are a lot of good things about China that are not reported, and this is why increasing numbers of "foreigners" (myself included) are coming - and staying here.

Government data suggests that in 1980 there were just 20,000 foreigners in the country who stayed longer than six months, while it was 600,000 in 2011.

This is in addition to 54.12 million visitors. China is deservedly one of the top international tourism destinations, but tangible and intangible cultural heritage are not what people, like myself, are here for.

So let's take a look for a change at why China is a good place to be, especially for the young, such as my daughter, Kira, aged nearly 5.

On Friday, she was invited to a CCTV kids gala, where she saw her favorite cartoon character from the domestically produced Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.

The director of the gala was a friend, whom I first met four years ago when covering the Olympics.

She was a media center assistant, who went on to present TV news and documentaries, and then direct programs.

She's in her late 20s (I think; I haven't asked out of politeness), but the point is how much opportunity she has made the most of.

This sort of rapid career progression is rare in most countries, as is the social mobility that saw a girl from the provinces without connections do so well in the capital, due entirely to her hard work, talent and opportunism.

On Saturday, Kira went to a music festival on the outskirts of Beijing, enjoyed rock god Xu Wei's performance and fought with light sabers, before a thunderstorm arrived and we all packed into our cars and abandoned The Jesus and Mary Chain to battle the storm.

The China Music Valley International Music Festival is also known as the Pinggu Music Festival because the local government sponsors it in the hope of being recognized as a "new base" for the music industry.

This follows a central government initiative to expand the country's cultural might, or soft power.

Point being, there's a lot going on culturally in Beijing, both public and privately. It's a new center for the world's arts. And high-tech stuff. New ideas. And just about everything.

On Sunday, Kira took it a bit easier, did a dance class at her New Silk Road modeling school. Dinner was Italian pizza to go with a 10-yuan ($2) DVD of a Hollywood comedy that hasn't even had its US release yet.

If you want an expat/Western lifestyle with all the comforts of home, it's easy in Beijing. This is one of the reasons many of us stay.

Others like a more traditional Chinese lifestyle. I like both.

Kira is not special (well she is, but not for the purposes of this story) and millions of other kids, foreigners and locals, are also experiencing similarly abundant lifestyles in the capital.

There are opportunities here we don't have in our own countries. Like trade, for instance. While China booms, everywhere else is pottering along or going bust, and obviously this is a positive factor for those here.

We are in restaurant heaven, only the soccer is bad, and there are wows like the Panjiayuan antiques market, 798 art zone and the Temple of Heaven that you won't find anywhere else.

Foreigners like me don't have to stay in China. We choose to. And it's not like we don't know the alternatives.

I'm not saying China is perfect (who is?), but it is a good place to be.

People who have a negative view probably haven't visited, and all they know of the place is through the news.

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