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Ian Clark E-mail
Magazine - City Interview
Written by Ian Clark
Ian Clark also known as "Tao Yiran" is a true insider and not be taken as an usual common expat. He's been in this country for a decade. He has mastered Mandarin so extraordinarily well that he now works as a successful English-Chinese translator. Besides, he is a passionated musician and artist as well. He has published his first book in China "I Ain't No Foreigner" which is an original work written entirely in Chinese.

It was published nationwide in China and officially began distribution in March 2008 [first printing sold out November 23rd 2008] and was introduced on CCTV and in other national media as well. Several appearances in Chinese media such as documentaries about him underline the interest in his views and feature his direct and honest opinions.

What is your name?

Ian Clark.

What is your current age or age range?


What country are you native to?


What area of China do you current live?

Jiangsu, Nanjing.

How long have you lived in China?

10 years.

Why did you choose China, or what factors helped you to decide to choose China?

I didn't want to pay the USA war tax. I also don't want to have to drive a car.

What other countries did you consider? Why didn't you choose those?

I didn't choose other countries because they weren't far away enough from the USA. China was also one of the first countries I've been to.

Was it difficult to get the documents you needed to live and/or work there? (residency and/or working permit)

This has always been an issue. It is not easy for any non-Han to stay in China permanently.

What are your favourite activities that are available?

I like chanting and going to non-smoking coffee houses.

Do you speak mandarin?

Yes, I'm a translator.

Do you think it is crucial to know the language in China, or can you get by with English?

It's crucial to know the language.

How do you earn your living in China?

100% by translation.

How did you go about finding a job in China? Was it easy or hard to locate work and get a job?

I was translating as a side job from teaching English. My preferred job would have been classical guitarist, as I was in the states. You get forced into teaching English in China. People see foreigners as either 1. English teachers or 2. Entertainment. It's hard to break that. It's not like Japan where a White man can go get a job in a normal company as an IT. The classes are strictly divided here and if you do other jobs which mostly have lower pay, you may not be able to make ends meet, as you don't have family to rely on here.

Translation firms came looking for me. I started in 2001 at CTC and Talent (in Nanjing). Talent is a better firm, but they didn't have a lot of work for me. Translation is a special market. If a contract only needs to be passable, better to let Chinese do it and for a low rate. I set my high standards and high rates, and by 2008 I was getting good contracts regularly (long wait, huh?)

Are there local customs that would make it difficult for foreigners to fit in?

There are too many to list here. One custom is to make fun of foreigners directly and openly on the street. Staring is a problem, too (which appears to be a physical challenge from a male). Typically the very low-quality foreigners fit right in, whereas normal foreigners (people who would be seen as fitting in the social behavior norms of their country) have big issues trying to accept blatantly immoral, unhygienic or rude behavior.

What are the top ten things you like about China?

1. There isn't a war going on

2. You can use public transportation for all your needs.

3. You can buy a place within a couple years

4. You're always on the moral high ground, always an example

5. People aren't anti-intellectual, i.e., it's OK to say, "I study things", "I read", "I speak three languages" etc. Study and self-improvement are encouraged here.

6. Generally less harassment while you're at home, less T-shirt ads ("Drink Coke")

7. There's a strong tradition of chastity and male continence, which is backed up by traditional medicine. Chinese men do not follow this tradition now, but they are more  than aware that it exists. They do not make fun of celibates, or feel sorry for them. They think, "Oh, that's very traditional", and they know that it is of great benefit, usually.

8. Sometimes you can talk a price down if you really don't have the full price on you. In the states, if you're short one cent, no sale.

9. There are more traditional families here.

10. Sometimes you see big changes and improvements made in a year or two, whereas the same change would take 20 years or more in a developed country.

What are the things you DON'T like or find strange about China?

1. Hygiene problems
2. Rampant smoking and disrespect for others breathing.
   3. A calloused view of sex and abortion. (Abortion ads on the buses, trash cans, newspapers)
4. Women dress in skirts that are too short
5. Alcoholism

Do you have any suggestions for people who are thinking about moving to China?

I'd suggest that they buy a place and don't go out into the streets much. You could even hire people to buy your groceries or deliver your meals. Don't eat meat, especially here. Especially don't eat fish (there is no clean water in China). Don't eat street food or cheap restaurant food.  It's all fun and games until you get dysentery or some permanent worm in your guts. Wash and cook your own food. Buy organic if possible. Visit all the historical places in the city you live, so that you appreciate it more.

Make friends with your doorman and neighbors, if they aren't scamming you for English lessons. Learn Chinese and only speak Chinese. Refuse to speak English with anyone. Watch for Chinese who say "Hello" first. Even if they speak Chinese later, they won't be real friends that stick with you. You have to watch for these signs, or else you'll lose a lot of your friends.

The Chinese who try to only speak Chinese with you are the ones who welcome you here and hope that you'll stay. Get a tent for your bed to prevent mosquitoes. Follow traffic rules and local laws, even if Chinese do not follow them. The more cultured Chinese will watch and admire you. Don't ever buy a car, as they are polluting and very dangerous. You will likely get into trouble if you drive a car around China. Motorcycles are also very polluting and dangerous here. Traffic deaths per kilometer are four times higher than the US here.

If you work in China, make sure your employer gives you formal pay slips and tax receipts. If he doesn't, go to the tax bureau and have them investigated. Record contract violations in a book and get witnesses for each violation. At the end of the contract you can make big money from these records. Avoid air conditioning as air pollution is very bad and AC can cause severe respiratory problems. Use fans in the summer, dress warm in the winter.

Learn to live in each season without much extra help. Do not allow yourself to go to smoky places, as they will surely make you sick. Find a list of good vegetarian restaurants and smoke-free zones in your area (even if you're a smoker). Otherwise the air pollution plus the smoke will give you worse problems. Use a water filter for your home's water. Buy and air filter, too. Panel the walls with wood, or hang carpets on them in the winter (as the walls are concrete). The biggest mistake in coming here is to think that illegal, immoral and dangerous activities are "funny". They will be very "funny" until you get slammed. Like your building's fire safety and other safety issues. Drunk taxi drivers. Driving over the double yellow lines. People riding motorcycles on sidewalks. 

Protect yourself. Oppose dangerous behavior. Remember that when others are breaking the law, you have a right to enforce the law. If they get angry, call the police, and the police will support you.

The lawlessness in China is not because the police are corrupt, but because there are not enough police and police are over-worked. If you call the police, insist that all parties go to the station to make a report. Do not let the policeman talk you into leaving the scene. Insist on justice, help the good guys in China win.

What are the good or bad things about living in China?

It's good that you can buy a place with a short mortgage. You can pay far less than in the states. I was a home owner at the age of 32. This is a great advantage of living here. I'm not a slave to the banks. I can live on very little income, more like the locals.

What else would you like to say?

I'd like to say that China is a very dynamic and hectic place. It's more fun for young people. Older people may want to "hole up" here for retirement. Always be alert about safety and hygiene issues. Don't assume that everything is already being regulated like it is in your home country. Learn basic Chinese before you get here.

Ian during the introduction of his book on CCTV


Interviewer Dongfang [DF]: Next I'd like to introduce to everybody a special guest. Today before the show he gave me a copy of his book, "I'm not a Laowai [foreigner]". You're obviously a laowai, so why would you write a book with that title?

Tao Yiran [TY]: I AM a laowai, but I'm not like any other laowai.

DF: In this book there's a statement that moved me: "I want to move forward with China." Could you explain to us the full meaning of that statement?

TY: I came to China in 1999, and especially at that time the development process was very apparent. I was 20-something at that time, and for me, too, I had to develop myself. I decided to chose a place to live that was in tandem with my own life, I wanted to grow with a growing place.

DF: Do you plan on becoming a Chinese citizen?

TY: I don't have such an opportunity, but if I did, I certainly would.

DF: Everybody, wish him luck! [TY thinking this would be censored, makes an awkward gesture. Currently all people who are not racially Han cannot become a citizen or get a green card, though the government does not allow the media to state this].

DF: Today Mr.Tao brought a guitar - I assume he'll sing a song for us?

TY: Yes indeed.

DF: What will you sing?

TY: The Shephard's Song.

DF: [Surprised] The Shepherd's Song! OK, applause everybody!

TY: [sings the song, audience joins in on the wrong beat, TY adjusts, finishes.] Thanks everybody.

DF: Thanks Tao Yiran. We hope that Nanjing will produce more famous cultural icons in the future. Thanks, you two.

Where to buy Ian Clarks book "I Ain't No Foreigner" ("Wobushilaowai")?

Check out this link!

Visit Ian Clark's "Mr. Tao's" Website

Click here

Our valuable Editor Ian Clark has been with us since Sunday, 18 October 2009.

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0 #8 FunnyLog 2019-08-03 04:29
Hi to every one, this article is really remarkable for learning about other expats experiences, well, keep up the nice work fellows.Greeting from Fuzhou.
+1 #7 Boomercn 2009-11-28 13:04
wowowo, boys and girls. calm down, deal with different views or go to war :-D
0 #6 difexpats 2009-11-03 17:54
//Yes, I have principles, but those refer to myself and my own
//behavior. Who am I to enforce my principles on others?

Oh great. Let us define principles: If someone sh** on your dish, you will eat it and say: "Oh, i respect your principles, who am I to tell you how to behave, thanks for the sh**?"

You said he is unqualified? Who are you to judge him? A kind of those expats who sees his future here and nowhere else. Well, this makes you ridiculous. There is a big disease in peoples mind here and expats are affected of it as well. All the pretty wet advantages and the "wild west"-nature of this country affect brains and ability to judge. But it does not affect all brains here. And people like Ian are what i call most honest.
+1 #5 Ian Clark 2009-11-03 14:57
Who am I to judge someone who's beating me in the face? It would be wrong to judge them.
+2 #4 Ian Clark 2009-11-03 14:25
People who are here for just some CCP (i.e., sex tourists) would be very opposed to enforcing even the most basic standards of morality, lest that standard be thrust upon himself. They'll stand up for public smoking and reckless driving, lest someone turn around and ask him who's daughter he's defiling. These kinds of foreigners (like the one "against judgment" in these comments) would gladly stand up for the Kali Yug' rights of criminals to kill people with poison air, tainted food or insane driving. It's just a projection of their addled inner world.
0 #3 Georg 2009-10-19 16:28
Please read my comment again. I don't say I like everything about China; in fact there are quite some things which I personally don't like. And... Yes, I have principles, but those refer to myself and my own behavior. Who am I to enforce my principles on others?

There is a big difference between criticism and judgment. Talking about "low-quality" foreigners who easily blend in, "blatantly immoral behavior" and so on, that guy puts himself into the position of a moral judge. A very unqualified judge, by the way, if he judges people by the first word they say...
0 #2 gimmicks 2009-10-18 22:35
he is not "some" guy and i think you are arrogant. he lives here a long time and you are not being honest to yourself and your principles (if you got some...). There might be a lot of precious and perhaps wet advantages you get here in China (that you cannot get back at home) that makes you say that kind of stuff? actually you sound like a hypocrite and not like a realistic thinking educated person.

Is everything pretty? Nothing is worth to be critizized? Stop deceiving yourself or are you one of those "who came here to get your CCP™"?

probably so.
0 #1 Georg 2009-10-18 21:10
My first reaction was to rant about so much arrogance, about some guy who judges other people by a single word, classifies them according to their "quality" and complains about the "immoral" behaviour of his host(!!!) country. There are too many Taliban-minded people in the world who think their standard should be the benchmark for everyone... But then I noticed this is probably all just an ingenious piece of irony, meant as flamebait... Hopefully...

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