Foreigners Who Built Careers Their Way in China

The best thing about China is the people who you meet here. In any of China's major cities, you will find yourself in the middle of the largest migration in human history and surrounded by people who have been drawn to that same city in the pursuit of a better future. The ambition can be intoxicating, and opportunities for self-starters and entrepreneurs abound. For this article, we wanted to highlight eleven foreigners in China who have built outstanding careers for themselves here. They range from "China's most famous foreigner", Dashan, to the woman who keeps SmartIntern's Shanghai staff sated with cookies, Lexie Comstock. What they all have in common is that they have produced things of great value in China, and in doing so, carved out exceptional career niches for themselves.

 Mark Kitto - Founder, "That's" Mags

Kitto arrived in China in 1996 as a metals trader, and soon thereafter invested 3 million yuan of his own money to launch the print magazine That's Beijing. Following the success of That's Beijing, Kitto also launched That's Shanghai and That's Guangzhou before having his media mini-empire seized by the government in 2004. That's Mags continue to this day without Kitto's involvement. Kitto also made headlines in late 2012 when he penned an essay for Prospect Magazine entitled, "You'll Never be Chinese: Why I'm Leaving the Country That I Loved."

Marc Van Der Chijs - Co-Founder, Tudou

Marc is the co-founder of video sharing site Tudou, which he founded alongside Gary Wang in Shanghai in 2005. While China is full of successful foreign entrepreneurs, it is uncommon to see them reach the level of succes that Van Der Chijls has. Following his success in China, Van Der Chijls relocated to Vancouver, Canada, where he now looks for the next big idea as a venture capitalist at CrossPacific Capital (XPCP). Marc is also a co-founder of Spil Games Asia and unitedstyles.dom

Carl Setzer - Founder and Brewmaster, Great Leap Brewing

Carl Setzer decided it was time to begin servicing the world's biggest beer market, so in 2010 he and partner Liu Fang founded Great Leap Brewing, Beijing's first craft brewery. Great Leap makes beers that mix brew heritage with traditional Chinese spices and flavors, and now boasts two locations in Beijing and legions of thirsty fans throughout China.

Mark Roswell (Dashan 大山) - Performer and Speaker of Excellent Mandarin Chinese

DaShan is "China's most famous foreigner", and a veritable icon among Chinese citizens. He is known for his mastery of Cross Talk, a form of traditional Chinese comedy that is difficult for even native Mandarin speakers to perform, much less master. Originally from Toronto, Canada, DaShan is a great reference point for any foreigner looking to develop a "biaozhun (标准)" ("standard") Beijing accent.

Dan Harris - Founder, China Law Blog

Dan makes our list for creating his own niche as the go-to expert on Chinese law. At China Law Blog, Dan does the hard work of interpreting China's law for the foreign entrepreneurs on the ground in China. China Law Blog explains its ambitious goal with the deceptively simple mission statement of: we discuss the "practical aspects of of Chinese law and how it impacts business there." Not an easy task, but Harris does an admirable job of keeping China watchers aware of changes in the legal landscape and what those changes mean for a company's bottom line.

Kaiser Kuo - Founder of Tang Dynasty & Spring and Autumn / Director of International Communications @ Baidu / Founder, Sinica Podcast

A Chinese American, Kuo has lived in China for nearly 20 years and first made his mark as a founding member of one of China's original metal bands, Tang Dynasty. He later founded a second band, Spring and Autumn and currently works as the Director of International Communications for Baidu, China's largest search engine. Along with Co-host Jeremy GoldKorn, Kuo founded the Sinica Podcast, which brings listeners refreshingly balanced discussion on current affairs and life in China. To us, Kuo's non-traditional but totally epic career path represents the best that working in China can offer.

Carl Crow - Author, 400 Million Customers

Carl Crow was born in Missouri in 1884 and moved to Shanghai in 1911, where he took up work as a newspaper editor before opening China's first western advertising agency. According to Wikipedia, Crow also founded the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury. Not content to stop there, Crow wrote 13 books, including his most well-known, 400 Million Customers, which was published in 1937 and won a National Book Award.

Lexie Comstock - Founder, Strictly Cookies, Nom Nom Dessert Bar

Harvard graduate Lexie Comstock is the owner of Strictly Cookies and Nom Nom Dessert Bar. Lexie transitioned to a Shanghai Entrepreneur virtually overnight after noticing Shanghai's lack of anything resembling the type of cookies we all grew up with. By making her mark with her authentic homestyle cookies, she capitalized on (and revealed!) a hidden niche in Shanghai. Find more of her story in the links below:

Archie Hamilton - Founder, Split Works / China Music Radar

Archie founded Split Works in 2006 to provide concert promotion and music industry consultation in China and Asia. Split Works has since become a major influence in China's music scene, which is still seen by many experts as a young, raw market. Split Works helps expand live music experiences through a number of major music festivals and art events featuring both foreign and Chinese musicians.

Andrew Ballen, Founder, AVD Digital Media

Andew Ballen first arrived in China in 2001, which, in "China years" is an eternity ago. Ballen had left Duke after two years and, upon moving to China, got his start teaching English before using his keen business sense to see gaps in the market for hip hop promotion, and improved advertising services. Being the entrepreneur that he is, Ballen soon found work as a radio and TV host, concert & club promoter, and voiceover specialist before founding AVD Digital Media, which he currently runs. Ballen also speaks excellent Chinese.

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The SmartIntern Team
Author: The SmartIntern Team

Launched in 2013, SmartIntern was co-founded by Brandon and Mike. SmartIntern believes that the key to millenials' success is international experience, and the team is dedicated to helping launch global careers.

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