December 17, 2017

Why I left China

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.

Ken Carroll

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  1. Ken Carroll says:

    If there are outstanding issues please send me a working contact email. I can’t address anonymous comments or commentors without a contact address.



  2. ik says:

    All the best for the move back Ken.
    I wonder what your opinion on this article by a Brit who lived in China for many years, then decided to pack up and leave is.


  3. bababardwan says:

    Wow Ken. I’m impressed. I’m under the impression that most folk who go bankrupt just file for bankruptcy and then move on, wiping their hands of it….never to go back and try and compensate those affected. Respect. I’m glad you all came out of it unscathed and that the dark days are behind you. I wish you and your family all the best in your move back to China. 加油 ! 万岁


    • Ken Carroll says:

      Hey Baba,

      Thanks for this. I’m not certain that everyone has been compensated but I’ve tried. A couple of people left messages here saying they had lost out but they were anonymous of left no contact details. I will follow up on all genuine messages with contact details.

      So, I wouldnlt quite say I, or anyone else, came through unscathed. Bankruptcies are harsh. But it’s time to move on and do new things.

      I’ll let you know as they progress.



  4. Matthew Rudy says:

    Great to hear you’re heading back to China.

    I started learning Chinese listening to Jenny and yourself.
    It was a shame you had to leave Chinesepod.

    Good luck in the new year.

  5. a-fan-from-2006 says:

    Good luck Ken. You did some good work at ChinesePod. It made a big difference for me, and it was really something special, particularly in the first three years. I’ve done three start-ups, and C-pod certainly had all the same traits. glad that one worked out, and hope you share in some of that.

    I signed up for you feed — keep us all posted on what you do next.



    • Ken Carroll says:

      Thanks so much for this. The last couple of years have not been the most pleasant so it’s nice to hear this kind of support. As it happens I’m just about to launch something new. Please feel free to offer any feedback.


  6. Mohamed Moshaya says:

    Hi Ken,

    Best of luck… We certainly miss listening to you at ChinesePod. I have been a listener since almost the beginning, and you have inspired me to start

    All the best

  7. Michael Koch says:

    First congratulations on your public commentary on a very private and difficult ending to a business and home in a country you must have loved to inspire you to have taken such a risk.
    A CPA I’m completing my MBA and will travel to Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai in May 2014 followed up by the required business plan on a sustainable business on the mainland.
    As we would have it one of our team members works for a NY based language school and so the theme of our sub-group’s paper, which leads me to one question if I may?
    What would you have done or could have done differently that would have enabled you to sustain your school?
    Were some of the underlying factors: limited expatriate market, reducing spending by the same group, limited Chinese market penetration, increased government regulations/ taxes or limited capital on a terminal business?
    Perhaps we’ll have tea in Beijing one day. Thanks Ken and good luck on your future endeavors

  8. Stephen says:

    Dear Ken,
    I am so sorry to hear you have been through
    Financial hell. You revolutionized how languages are taught
    Through those magnificent lessons you and Jenny used
    To do. In my opinion the techniques developed at chinesepod are
    Second to none. Thank you for introducing me to the wonderful
    World of language learning.

  9. Steve says:

    I have been studying Chinese with your beautiful voice with ChinesePod.
    I actually looked to find out where you are, and to get a hold of you.
    I have put together a business program for Chinese businesses, to help them increase their business with the west, by educating them of the differences in culture, and more. I even thought of getting you interested in the program as well. But now, that you are no longer working in China, I was wondering if you still have your contacts, that would be interested…

  10. Luke says:

    Glad things have worked out for you. I have been listening to you on Chinesepod recently and wondered why you were not in the more recent lessons. Chinesepod is a great site with great content. Best on the web because it has a human interest factor due to the lessons actually being interesting.

    I have subscribed to your mailing list so look forward to getting ideas from your posts which may help me with a site I just started for learning Chinese.

  11. Dear Ken,
    I don’t know if you’re still reading these. I was a very early subscriber to It began as my wife and I were planning our first trip to China (and Tibet). That was in 2005 and we went to China in the summer of 2006, ten years ago. You and Jenny (my goodness, what an asset she was -and is – wherever she may be) inspired me to hire a private tutor from a local university. By the time we landed in Beijing I was ordering food for our travel group and bargaining in the open markets of Lhasa!

    Competing time pressures led me to stop my studies. I’m now nearing retirement and started Googling to see what became of the company and you, Jenny, and the rest of the crew. It’s funny how intense podcast relationships can make you feel as if you are part of a true kinship group of some type.

    I found on-line some of the early shows and they brought back such fond memories. This afternoon I found this blog of yours and am saddened at the conclusion of what was no doubt a life’s work.

    My sincere , if not belated, best wishes for your success and come back from this situation. I’ve seen some of Jenny’s more recent YouTube videos and she appears to have bounced back.

    I may be renewing with now that my time is freeing up. Not a polyglot like you, I find languages very difficult, but, my life long love of all things Asian provides me the impetus.

    Again, best of luck and well wishes from one of your very early customers.

    • Ken Carroll says:

      Thank you so much,Jeff. It’s great to hear from old friends. I still hear fairly regularly from people who told me that ChinesePod touched their lives. I appreciate the kind words.

      I will be getting busy on this blog again in the near future, though I’ll be talking about marketing more than languages.

      I wish you the very best in your future and keep up the language learning – I think that’s a great idea.

      Ken Carroll

  12. Justin says:

    Hi, Ken. I’m just another person who discovered you and Jenny on Chinesepod about 8 years ago. What you did there was wonderful, your personality and voice made the experience fun, interesting, and pleasant. I wish you all the best.

  13. Daven says:

    Hi Ken,

    I took a look to see what you and Jenny looked like and what your’e up to these days, and saw your post about leaving China.

    You and Jenny have been absolutely inspirational in taking my first steps in learning Chinese. I used to listen over and over to your courses, and later started going to weekly classes.

    Think of all the 1000’s of people that you have paved the way for ,to bridge the gap in learning Chinese… all your efforts were not in vain- you have touched many people’s hearts and encouraged them and made it possible for them to learn Chinese.

    Thank you again…

    p.s. Jenny and yourself have contributed your energy to build this legacy for yourselves.. everything is balanced in this universe..

  14. Thomas says:

    Hi Ken
    I lived in China in 2008-2010.
    I benefitted very, very much from ChinesePod.

    I have left China many years ago now. But now I decided to brush up my Chinese, and then I luckily kept the downloaded podcasts.

    So, now I am listening to the early episodes again to rebuild my vocabulary.

    It is like meeting old friends again – thank you for this brilliant learning resource!

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