OK, Goddamn it, Fine: Other Reasons I Left China, and Proof Yang Rui Isn’t One of Them

Apparently everyone else (read: two other people) decided to leave China around the same time as me. And since I guess even the New York Times can’t keep from implying that my departure had something to do with the Yang Rui incident, I guess I have to explain some things.

(Note: I don’t mean to imply that this post is just a reaction to that NYT piece. It isn’t. It’s a reaction to a whole lot of things, and overall I think the NYT piece is much better about conveying the real meaning of my “why I’m leaving China” post than many other people have been).

Those of you who read the original post and didn’t immediately assume I was lying and those of you aren’t interested in my personal life are excused. How that isn’t all of you is lost on me, but apparently it isn’t, so here we go.

My personal reasons for leaving China:

  • I hadn’t seen most of my family in several years.
  • My wife had never even visited my home country (like most young Chinese women, she found it impossible to get a US tourist visa; she applied and was rejected twice), and she and I both wanted to live here for a while so that she could improve her English.
  • My job at Tech in Asia is the rare one that is flexible enough to allow an international move without disrupting our lives in a huge way, so it seemed best to take advantage of that opportunity.
  • Our film is nearly finished and we’ll be applying to (and hopefully attending) festivals; that’s easier to do in a country where there are some of them (and where our film isn’t technically illegal).
  • As paradoxical as this may sound, I need to be in the US to set up something that will hopefully allow us to do more in-depth reporting on China. That I still can’t give details about, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to share that project with you soon.

So, those are some of the personal reasons. Why didn’t I share them in the original blog post? Because they’re personal reasons. I didn’t anticipate anyone would be interested and, perhaps foolishly, I didn’t assume that half the internet would assume I was lying about having personal reasons and that my real reason was running away from Yang Rui.

So let’s talk about that: was our decision to leave motivated at all by the Yang Rui incident? No. Since my wife was unable to get a tourist visa, we had to apply for a US immigration visa. Anyone familiar with that process can tell you that it would be utterly impossible to get one in the two months between when the Yang Rui crap started and when we left China.

In our case — which I believe was processed with unusual speed and went unusually smoothly compared to the average application — we decided to apply and began collecting materials in December 2011. We applied in January 2012, as you can see in the — I can’t believe I have to do this — email from Beijing CIS/DHS below. Note the date in the upper right-hand corner.

click to enlarge

Obviously, we had decided to leave China long before Yang Rui opened his mouth on weibo. As it happens, we were actually in Guangzhou doing the final visa interview as the Yang Rui thing started to take off in late May.

US Immigration visas have a six-month period of validity from the date the visa is issued, after which they are no longer accepted and one has to start the entire long, difficult, and expensive process over again (or so I understand it). So, when my wife was granted a visa on that trip in May, it meant we needed to enter the US before mid-October at the absolute latest. Late July ended up being the best option, mostly because we were able to find a pretty decent price on good flights for the day we ended up picking and because a July arrival would allow us to spend some time with my family, almost all of whom are teachers and thus have most of August off.

If I had been truly scared by Yang Rui, since my wife passed that interview in May, it would have been possible for us to fly back to Beijing, collect our stuff, and catch the next plane out as soon as her passport was returned with the visa in it, which ended up being just a few days later. The reason we waited another two months instead of leaving then is because Yang Rui had no effect whatsoever on our travel plans.

So there you have it. I would love it if, in at least the media, we could stop implying that Yang Rui had anything to do with my decision to move to the US. OK guys? That would be great.

(I apologize to our sane readers for doing this; it’s my own fault this has happened, but I felt the need to set the record straight.)

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59 thoughts on “OK, Goddamn it, Fine: Other Reasons I Left China, and Proof Yang Rui Isn’t One of Them”

  1. “Aggressors always try to pin the blame for their actions on their victims.”
    —Huh? Who are the aggressors? What actions? Who are the victims? Gimme a break, dude. Even a dedicated CCP apologist like you must tire of crying wolf and playing the victim card, at some point, right? On second thought, maybe not…

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  2. @Mark – That’s interesting. Particularly given how many political parties arguably fall into the ‘nationalist’ bracket they may actually receive more ‘yes’ answers than you’d think.

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  3. It’s funny that people like YoungIT seem to believe that the only real actors on the world stage is the United States or sometimes more broadly “the West”, while the Chinese (and I’d presume other non-western countries) can only be passive, whether passive puppets or passive victims. What they can never be is actors in their own right. This, ironically, shows a hell of a lot of contempt for the Chinese people.

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  4. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  5. Yo Mate,

    Read your previous post with interest…
    I shared most of your points you brought in to justify your decision.
    Now, I must say I’m getting a little bit lost…
    It may be related to cultural difference (sorry but I’m French….. I know, I know, nobody’s perfect!)
    However I feel quite disturbed that you feel compelled to justify your own family’s decision to head toward another path….
    I’ve been around in China for only 17 years.
    I can’t but agree with everything you said.
    I, on my own, am also going to leave, for another personal reason( my child was born blind and there is no any serious structure in China to take care of sight impaired children, unless of course you want them to become massage specialists…).
    What strikes me, however, as a French (sorry about that again, promise I won’t do it again…) is that you feel in a position to justify yourself following a paper from NYT.
    As far as I know, those people writing juicy peaces are not making information, just cashing on it… They never leave their comfortable offices and are counting on the ones going out there to make their stories.
    They may not even understand what we are talking about…
    I wish you and your lovely Family well. May you find what we are all looking at…

    Kindest regards

    Doc. D.

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  6. “Better with Member and in a cushy job than without member in a Gulag. I am sure many chinese people see it the same…”

    Actually, that depends. During Stalin’s Great Purge, the higher up one was in the party, the more likely one was to be a victim. Even the most submissive, subservient, obedient loyalty meant nothing. Just ask Sergey Kirov. Being a party member may have been even more dangerous than being a dissident at that time (though not by much). The best way to stay safe was avoid politics altogether, shut up, keep your head low, and hope that it passed.

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