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English>>Life & Culture

Foreigners in China: a complicated love affair

By Wu Zhi and Liu Tong (Xinhua)

10:18, September 17, 2012

BEIJING, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Swede Niklas Petersson feels that Beijing is becoming more and more like New York or Tokyo, not only because of the city's modern look, but also due to the high number of foreigners.

Since China's opening-up and reform began in 1978, the number of foreigners coming to the country has been on the up and up, especially since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

China registered 27.1 million entries of foreigners last year, compared with only 740,000 in 1980, according to official data. About 600,000 foreigners currently live in the country on a regular basis, 30 times more than in 1980.

Petersson, who works for Sony Mobile, said he got tired of the long flights between Sweden and China, so he decided to move to Beijing.

"I'm really satisfied with my current situation and enjoy it," he said, adding that the company provided him with an apartment near his office so he can bike to work and he has made friends with his Chinese colleagues.

Before moving to China in 2005, New Zealander Daniel Cotterall was considering four cities -- Beijing, Santiago, Buenos Aires and Madrid.

He decided that Beijing would be the most exciting and the one where he would learn the most. He also felt there would be space for him in China, an economy that was then marking 10 percent annual growth.

Having worked as an editor, businessman and corporate trainer in Beijing, Cotterall said, "Like many Westerners, I admire and like Chinese people. They are warm, practical, funny, open, lively, tough, industrious and optimistic."

FEARS OF XENOPHOBIA

This year, a series of unpleasant events involving foreigners came under the spotlight and caused a stir in the country, giving rise to concerns among foreigners that xenophobic sentiment is on the rise in China.

First, there was the British man who allegedly sexually harassed a woman in Beijing. Then, a Russian cellist insulted a female passenger on a train. Several foreigners were also caught robbing taxi drivers in Guangdong Province.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese expressed their anger on the Internet over the incidents, and police launched campaigns to crack down on foreigners violating immigration, residency or employment rules.

Petersson and some other foreigners said that considering many countries also have strict visa systems, they could understand China's move as a means to maintain public order.

However, state television personality Yang Rui, supporting the campaign, called for purging "foreign trash" in a comment on his microblog, arousing strong reactions from foreigners.

Though Yang later said that most foreigners obey and respect Chinese culture and social norms, many viewed his comment as part of a rising spirit of "anti-foreign" nationalism and said that being a foreigner in China today has become an "uneasy business."

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