Chinese Whispers

Strangers in a strange land: being foreign in China

39 min listen

In This Episode

Over the last few hundred years, China has had a difficult and complicated relationship with foreigners. On the one hand, they added to the country’s intellectual richness by introducing western philosophy and science; and on the other, these contributions often came accompanied by guns and gunboats.

And today, out of a country of 1.4 billion, there are fewer than one million foreigners living there. So what is it like to try to make China one’s home if you were British or anything else?

On the episode, I speak to two long time China hands. Mark Kitto is a writer and actor who lived in China for 16 years, setting up two businesses in succession there but now back living in Norfolk. Alec Ash is the author of Wish Lanterns, all about Chinese millennials. He moved to China around the time that Mark left, and has just moved back to the UK after a decade there.

I want to find out from them what it is like to be foreign in China given the country’s complicated history with Brits and other foreigners; and whether the Chinese identity itself is particularly hard to penetrate as a foreigner.

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