A Former Expat on China: Grim

1. LaoWhy86 on YouTube

Spent the last few days catching up on my China reading and viewing, mostly those articles and videos friends, clients and readers wrote me insisting I read. One of the sites I checked out — at the recommendation of many people — is LaoWhy86 on YouTube. I’m hooked LaoWhy86 is an American who initially went to China to teach English and then stayed on to start a business and to marry a Chinese woman. He even bought a house, but, like so many expats who have fled China in the last 3-8 years, he eventually came to hate the place. Unlike so many of these expats, he is cashing in on his time in China and knowledge of China with a YouTube channel that often (and understandably) gets more than a million hits per video.

LaoWhy86 is actually Matthew Tye, whom IMDb describes as follows:

Matthew Tye, born in Binghamton New York, on December 27th, 1986 is best known for his work in the documentary, Conquering Southern China, and its sequel, Conquering Northern China.

Matthew, or as he is more commonly known, C-Milk, is an internet personality who documents his life in China on his YouTube channel, laowhy86.

Most describe his videos as upbeat, fun, and candid. Known for traversing rural China by motorcycle, his journeys have been documented throughout his 10 year stay in China.

In 2013, Matthew married Vivienne Wei, and they have a daughter, Olivia.

2. Must Watch Video: How China Destroyed Me

How China Destroyed Me is the video everyone should watch. Without going into any detail or specifics, I can say that the things LaoWhy86 discusses in this video essentially destroyed me for China also, and I know of many others similarly destroyed. I strongly urge you to watch the entire video and I welcome comments on it below.

3. Must Watch Video: Why I Changed my Opinion on China 

The other LaoWhy86 video I particularly liked was Why I changed my Opinion on China, which is really nothing more than the video version of what countless expats who have soured on China have told me. I am not the only person who is a big fan of this particular video. A loyal blog reader, who spent many years in China before leaving for similar reasons, actually transcribed this video and urged me to watch it, which I finally did today. The below is her transcription, with some portions deleted and those portions I know to be true but which the CCP and its lackeys desperately (and often successfully) hide from the outside world highlighted.

I urge you to watch both videos and to watch any other LaoWhy86 videos that particularly strike your fancy. I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

China’s a country that polarizes people’s opinions. Mine included. I’ll be the first to correct someone that is unfairly criticizing the country. And the first to point out when overly optimistic visions of China’s future are just plain wrong.

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I have to admit, when I would leave China to visit my hometown once every couple years, around 2008 to 2012, it was just embarrassing to see that not only did nothing change in my hometown, but the few businesses and attractions that were just managing to keep afloat were shutting down.

The once-passable city center was now more or less boarded up. The mall destitute and abandoned. People were leaving in droves to go south for better jobs. And it really looked like local politics and economic policies were failing in the town.

Not only small towns like my own were disappointing, though. I would fly into JFK Airport in New York City and just feel like I was stuck somewhere in the ‘70s in terms of the tech and attitude in the workforce. Stepping out of the cabin to New York City, it wasn’t dirty per se, but everything just felt old.

Yeah, old is a good word for it. You know the charm was always there. I love New York. And it’s always had a special place in my heart. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling of it not going places. Trying to get home was a nightmare. There was only a couple buses for a day, for over $50 bucks, just to make a 100-mile journey. I’d have to take a $52 taxi ride from the airport to the bus station as well.

Meanwhile, flying back to China, I would look out the window of my plane and I’d see the magnificent buildings springing up from the ground like bamboo shoots after a good rainstorm. I’d hop off the plane and be able to take a direct bus that only costs $7 to my small city of three million people, in a matter of minutes.

Because straight from the airport, the buses left every 15 minutes. But if I wanted to splurge a bit, I could just take the high-speed rail. Yeah, even my tiny little no-name city had a high-speed rail line.

Keep in mind, this is one of the least important cities in the province. So it’s not like I was going to D.C. from New York City. It was more like going to my hometown from New York City. After getting off the bus, it cost me $2 in taxi fares to go straight to my house.

And guess what? Even back in 2013, I was paying for everything with my phone. On the bus from New York City to my hometown, I’d watch the swathes of forest go by on my journey. I couldn’t help but shake the fact that, when I got home, I’d be stuck there. The nearest shop was a 15-minute drive. And there was certainly no one that was going to deliver anything that I needed to my door.

Flashback to my backwater apartment in no-name Chinese city, and I was having Oreos and beer delivered to me at any time of night. Not that I recommend that anyone order Oreos and beer at 1:00 a.m. But I could, and that’s what mattered.

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Things, however, changed pretty drastically. The train and bus tickets that I mentioned now needed a Chinese ID to buy them—something I would never have. You can’t become a citizen of China. You can’t even get a green card.
This meant being enslaved to my wife’s help for really buying anything transport-related. It was now illegal to put an American flag up next to the Chinese one at the entrance to my English training center, even though it symbolized cooperation. Police visits became a regular fixture in my life. Friends and family and the government were now telling me that I was constantly being monitored and followed, and I should be careful about posting anything online. Or, who I was associated with.

Keep in mind, all of my content was fairly positive. Social media and non-Chinese websites were now blocked. My little window to the outside world was now shut.

My motorcycle business with my best friend shut down when the government decided that it wanted to reclaim the land for more ramshackle ghost towns for hungry real estate investors. No one was asked if this was okay. A big uptick of kidnappings in the neighborhood parks started to become more prevalent. With a child at home, the idea that I could lose my daughter to human traffickers really kept me up at night.

Unrest at the nearby hospital down the road led to the murder of countless nurses and drunken street violence at the barbecues was hard to avoid now.

Police would arbitrarily threaten me with arrest, even coming to my door, because I had flown a drone over the building where I lived. They said there was a military base that was visible in the footage. Meanwhile, the exact same footage was posted on Chinese video sites, by Chinese people, with no pushback.

Arbitrary enforcement of law, when random government leaders would come to town, meant that street-side vendors were closed and shooed away, with all their goods confiscated.

All of the choices I had for restaurants on my local road would close and reopen with worse and worse quality food. I got sick a lot more than in the past. With the ever-growing presence of gutter oil being used in the cooking and the fake alcohol even being sold in large supermarket chains, it wasn’t a good time to be eating or drinking anything.

The buildings I once fawned over started showing signs of abandonment. Those bamboo shoots springing up around me at an alarming rate turned out to be hollow shells and empty apartments. Some of them nearly collapsing only after three years.

Due to the advice of my Chinese family and friends, I bought my own apartment for my family. But the elevator collapsed twice in this shiny new building that had literally just been built. Massive cracks formed across the floors and walls.

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Our next documentary, Conquering Northern China, focused on showing the positive adventures that China had to offer. It led us to being searched and detained by the SWAT team, as well as the People’s Liberation Army. Apparently, they don’t like footage of camels.

We were harassed and bullied out of towns, not allowed to stay at most hotels and followed. We quickly realized that the vibe towards foreigners had changed. For the first time, I would be heckled almost weekly by locals who had been reading too much news about how China’s problems are now the fault of foreigners. “You’re stealing our Chinese women!” “Go home, foreigner!” “I don’t like Americans!”

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The social credit system was being rolled out, which monitors your activity, what you do or say about the government and pretty much all of your actions. Banners praising the current leader, as well as tons of Communist insignia started to be unveiled in every corner of the country. Cameras could now be found on every stoplight and street corner.

All this new regulation, the clamp-downs, the renewed xenophobia, even the growth seemed to be shifting from a tolerable inconvenience to a full-fledged messy bureaucratic nightmare.

You see, China’s always thrived on being a gray area in almost all walks of life. Capitalism had taken its toll in many ways, but life was improving and even felt freer than the West in many, many ways—albeit no political expression or freedom of speech.

Now churches are being dismantled. Millions of ethnic minorities are being put into concentration camps and being told that they’re Chinese, but need to be reeducated. Families torn apart. Foreign entertainment and opinions blocked and squashed, overstepping boundaries when it comes to free societies like you see in Hong Kong. Military showmanship. Threats. Imprisonment.

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The open tap for dialogue with other people from other countries has effectively been shut off. They’ve created an army of soft power internet trolls and government initiative to try and prove to the world that it’s not only us versus them, but that our system is best.

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Now when I go back home to my tiny little town in the forest, it all makes sense. It feels fantastic.

Your thoughts?