Moving to China

An up-close view of one person’s transition from the US to China

My Chinese Government Work Permit

In December 2014, in a fit of pique over something at work, I shot off a resume for a job in China.

We’ve all been there. Your boss does something to piss you off. You soothe your feelings by looking at job openings, maybe send a resume or two. But then you get back to business.

In this case, the boss was a client who had reneged on payment after the service was completed. The client had no issue with the work — it was done according to plan and submitted ahead of deadline — but simply decided not to honor the agreed-upon price.

A breach of contract. This was the second time this had happened. But it was my main client, effectively my boss, and I couldn’t just upturn the tables and storm off.

I took my fumes instead to LinkedIn and looked at job postings. I saw one for a news editor position in Beijing at state-run China Central Television, the country’s main broadcaster.

Unlikely as it may seem, I had experience with precisely this sort of thing. I’d done this kind of work at South Korea’s state-run broadcaster, Arirang TV, and had long thought it a shame I wasn’t putting such a niche skill to use. How many people out there can say they have experience editing the English broadcast news writing of native Asian language-speaking writers?

I shot off a resume, then promptly forgot about it. I couldn’t stay sore for long with this client, who was part of what you might call my professional family. Plus, the client reversed the decision and reset the fee to its original agreed-upon rate, then asked me to come in to talk about expanding my role. Pushback pays.

Six months later, the recruiter contacted me. The job was open again. Was I still interested? The message came right as I was taking on an even more expanded role at the client organization, now under different leadership. The new leader, a mentor and close friend, was someone I liked to call my “patron”. She was the key to making my freelance business a real operation, not just something to do in between jobs. I’d been doing managerial-level work with her team, and we were planning to have me join it as a permanent staffer.

This is not a hard decision, I thought. I would brush off CCTV.

It didn’t take long before I felt the opposite. China in the 21st century? An enormous broadcast organization? I knew I’d be kicking myself for the rest of my life if I didn’t try. Someday on my deathbed I’d still be wondering where that road might have led. There was a Skype interview and an easy editing test. A month later, an offer was on the table. Thirteen months later, I was landing in Beijing.

In this Series

1. First Night in China

2. China Consulate Trips

3. Life in the Leadup

4. The Storage Yard Routine

5. First Days: Life in the Hotel

6. Getting an Apartment in Beijing

7. Reality Sets in the International Era