American-Chinese millennials returning to China en masse after years abroad
Decades ago, many Chinese people spared no efforts and expense to immigrate to developed countries in order to pursue a better life and more job opportunities. Their foreign-born offspring, however, are now attracted by China's rapid development and surging economy in order to realize the Chinese Dream their parents never had. The Global Times recently interviewed several "third-culture" (foreign-born) Chinese who have recently returned to China for work. Dou Xixi is our third interviewee.
Dou Xixi, 29, was born in a small city in East China's Anhui Province. When her parents moved to the US for education and work opportunities in the 1980s, the then 1-year-old was left with her relatives in South China's Guangdong Province. She was not reunited again with her parents until the age of six.
"At that time, many Chinese wanted to go abroad, especially to developed countries like the US," Dou recalls. "I felt very lucky that I had a special experience that most of my peers didn't have. Growing up in a metropolis like New York City broadened my horizons."
There, Chinese family spent a lot of time learning to be American citizens. Like many newly arrived Chinese immigrants, language was the biggest barrier that the Dous had to overcome. "My father spoke only a little English at first and had to learn from the very beginning," Dou told the Global Times.
As most children do, young Dou herself quickly adapted. She grasped the language within six months, learned to like American food and made friends with students originally from other countries and regions at the public school she attended.
"I love New York," she said. "It is an international and diverse place that everyone, no matter where you come from, can settle down for a better life."
After finishing his postgraduate studies at New York University in the early 1990s, Dou's father started an import-export business. In the year 2000, just before China joined the WTO, her father moved back to China so that his business could further benefit from the new market opportunities.
A decade later, after Dou graduated from Binghamton University, the then 22-year-old was instructed by her mother to return to China. "She hoped that I could spend more time with my dad," Dou said.
At first Dou was reluctant to go back. China, in her hazy childhood memory, was overcrowded and underdeveloped. She recalled a brief visit to Guangzhou in 1999. "The streets were very untidy and there were so many people everywhere. I missed the public parks and green spaces of New York."
Nonetheless, Dou followed her parents' wishes and, in 2010, flew to Beijing. There, she studied written Chinese at a local university for six months, then attended an internship at a US-based sports and entertainment company, which later offered her a full-time job.
"At that time, I thought I would not stay in China for long," she told the Global Times. "At most one year or two."
Dou, however, soon found that China was no longer the backward country of her childhood.
"For example, Shanghai is now very clean and orderly, and life here is quite convenient," she said, mentioning popular life-related O2O services including Mobike (bicycle-sharing), Didi Dache (taxi-hailing), Eleme (meal-ordering), Taobao (online shopping) and Alipay (mobile payment).
Dou also speaks highly of China's new high-speed railway system. "There are few high-speed trains in the US, while in China it's very popular to travel by bullet train, which are comfortable and time-saving," she said, recalling the first time that she took the maglev from Pudong International Airport in 2011. "I was like, 'wow, so fast!'"
Apart from convenience, Dou said she feels very safe, even when walking the street alone in Shanghai, and even at 3 am, which is almost impossible in most Western metropolises.
"I would never walk alone in downtown New York in the middle of the night," she said.
To date, Dou has lived in China for the past seven consecutive years.
Working at the China branch of the International Champions Cup, she has settled down in the city and married an American she met here. Two months ago, they held their wedding in Shanghai.
Dou, as well as many other Chinese-American millennials who choose to return to China for a better life, are performing well in their respective professions.
"We speak fluent English and Chinese, and are familiar with both Western and Eastern thinking and culture," she said. "We are ideal employees for any foreign enterprise with the ambition of exploring and expanding into the Chinese market."
With China's fast-growing economy and improving life quality, the nation has, in recent years, been attracting more and more overseas Chinese young adults like Dou.
"The US is less attractive compared with decades ago," Dou told the Global times. "I like China, and I enjoy life in Shanghai. I will continue staying in this promising land."