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More China expats will return to the United States

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A college buddy recently reached out to me. After spending two decades in China building software companies, he is in the process of relocating family back to the silicon valley.

The business environment has changed dramatically in China in the past 12 months. “It is getting harder to run internet business and make money here.” My friend wrote.

China has been making major policy and regulatory “adjustments”. I won’t get into all of the details here. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend this excellent (but long) write-up by Shanghai based analyst Dan Wang. Also, Ray Dalio’a new book Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail that provides an excellent macro view on what is happening.

From career perspective, I would like to offer several observations.

First,  if you are considering workong abroad in China, you should focus on industries and sectors that the Chinese government is promoting. For example, semiconductor, manufacturing, agriculture, etc. I’d stay away from internet and media sectors that have been hammered hard.

Second, be greedy when others are panicking. There is an growing fear about the current market condition in China. But, the Chinese market is simply too large to ignore. There will be opportunities for new winners in the more “hard core” sectors but it will requires a lot of patience and long term thinking to exploit the new opportunities.

Third, if you are in China now and feel pessimistic about the prospect there, you should be decisive and move. The world is increasingly flat. Go where the opportunities are.

This does not mean you have to move to the silicon valley. Covid has fundmemtally changed how we work. Remote-first or hybrid office model is becoming mainstream. You have a lot more flexibility in terms of where you live and work. My personal preference in the united states is living in one of the states with low or no state income tax, high quality public education, accessible to high quality art and culture event, and sizable local tech industry.

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