At the end of 2009, I left China in something of a hurry. Let me outline why.
One of the companies I’d founded – a chain of language schools, called Kai En - was going bankrupt. The problem came about after the US economy went south and the language school’s client-base dried up. There were big changes in the market.
I hadn’t actually worked at the language schools since 2005 but I still had shares in them. (I worked at ChinesePod between 2005-9.)
But three years of heavy losses drained myself and the other shareholders financially. From 2007 – 2009 our efforts to keep it alive cost us pretty much everything we had. By the end of 2009, we had run out of resources and out of options.
When I spoke to a Chinese bankruptcy lawyer in Oct 2009 he told me that Chinese law would not protect us. He described scenarios where anything could happen. The realities of the law there became horrifyingly clear to us.
Yet I was still surprised when he advised us to leave and solve the problem from offshore. We simply could not expect the legal protection otherwise.
It’s hard to explain the vulnerability you feel in China with a family in tow, some powerful people lining up against you, and a lawyer who tells you to solve it from offshore. So, we left.
Since then I’ve worked with the parties concerned in China from a base in Taiwan. Most of the mess has been cleaned up and I believe most of the people who suffered from the bankruptcy have been compensated. I hope to return to China in the new year.
In the meantime I plan to move on and try to re-build.