I’m being lyrically sensationalistic here, but beneath my playful prose is the harsh truth: America is seeing its end of days.
I conceived Unsavory Elements as a tribute to all those expat authors in China that had inspired me during my travels with their tales and prose.
I reached out to them to commission all-new stories – I did not know any of them personally but everyone was accessible and receptive – and found I had a knack for editing.
While most of the essays are by relatively established writers (the New Yorker's Peter Hessler is one notable example), they offer a good glimpse of the variety of the expat experience in China.
Perhaps the seediest story is Carter's own story, a snapshot of a his trip to a brothel in an unnamed Chinese city (a story that was "so insensitive," Time Out Shanghai felt forced to ask Carter about "his motives for writing it") but others offer more family friendly fare (for example, Alan Paul’s road trip through remote Sichuan province with his young family).
The irony of this reversal of roles is not lost on me, nor on the nearly 1 million foreigners living and working in China today, an (unofficial) number that has increased 10% year-on-year for the past decade.
All said, I am less inclined to think we are moving to China so much as we are fleeing the west.
However, these expats are not always the most reliable narrators.
Even websites that cater to expats are full of stories of foolish, usually drunken, "laowai" humiliating themselves in one manner or another.
BI: Do you think the view of foreigners in China has changed over the years?