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Xiamen: China’s best city

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I recently retired as UK senior partner of BDO after 23 years as a partner with the firm. Last year, I took up a position as visiting professor at Xiamen University, China. My wife is Chinese and I decided to spend three months exploring business opportunities in the region and trying to learn some Mandarin.

I’m blogging about my experiences in China for Real Business – catch up on my journey so far (see “related articles” on the right-hand side). 

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Xiamen is often voted the best city to live in China. It is on an island, connected to the mainland by bridges and a new tunnel, with a pleasant climate and relatively pollution-free. Its university is one of China’s oldest and most respected. Each year, about 5,000 new undergraduates, 5,000 new post-graduates and 600 new PhD students enrol there and enjoy a campus which rivals those of the best universities in the West. Each time I teach there, I notice the improving language skills of the students – the younger they are, the better their English.

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It is sometimes said that China is a country where the “rule of law” is not respected, but that the elite “rule by law”. Foreign firms have long complained that their intellectual property rights are not respected here. Litigating in China is a greater lottery even than in UK – and even winning judgement will not guarantee that damages can be collected. However, now that Chinese businesses are investing more in R&D and becoming more sophisticated in business, complaints about the legal system are being made locally too. Commercial law is a young profession in China; it is developing – and the pace of change needs to be fast. 

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Yu Han’s grandfather is one of the most famous Philosophy Professors in China; her father is a leading Accounting Professor. She is eight years old and speaks excellent “Oxford English” (having just spent a year there while her father was at the university). She loved England and made lots of friends. She has just returned to Chinese school, which she attends from 8am to 5pm – and she then has homework which can take three hours. She is a bright, lively girl and would thrive in either environment. She says she prefers English school because she had time to play, with little or no homework.

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