Two steps faster

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/29 18:58:39

Third-generation Chinese-Canadian explains why he moved to Shanghai to start a career

Editor's Note:

Decades ago, many Chinese people spared no efforts and expense to immigrate to developed countries in order to pursue a better life and more job opportunities. Their offspring, however, are now attracted by China's rapid development and surging economy in order to realize the Chinese Dream their parents never had. The Global Times recently interviewed several "third-culture" Chinese who have recently returned to China for work. Billy Chan is our fourth interviewee.

Billy Chan, a third-generation Chinese-Canadian, first visited China in 2010 and finally decided to settle down in Shanghai in 2014. For over a decade he was an IT consultant for a number of American companies but currently is starting up his own business.

Chan was born in Vancouver and raised in Vancouver Island's Port Hardy, a small town of less than 5,000 residents.

"My family ran a Chinese restaurant in Port Hardy. I went to high school in Vancouver and university at McGill, in Montréal Quebec," he told the Global Times.

"After working for about seven years, I returned to Vancouver to do my masters at the University of British Columbia," he noted.

Over 130 years ago, Chan's great grandfather worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway. In migrating to Canada, their family history was forever changed.

"China's social conditions were much different a hundred plus years ago. And that is a big reason why my family decided to immigrate to Canada when they had the opportunity," he told the Global Times.

But it was extremely difficult for his family to settle down in Canada at first.

Chan said that after Chinese workers completed the railway, the first thing the Canadian government wanted to do was to kick them all out.

But some, including his great grandfather, persisted.

Chinese 'head tax'

"My great grandfather knew he wanted to build his future in Canada and he wanted to stay there. But at the time, the Canadian government enacted something called the Chinese 'head tax,'" Chan said.

"If you wanted to get Canadian citizenship, you had to pay around 500 Canadian dollars ($388.5) at that time," he said.

His family, fortunately, managed to come up with the money and paid it.

"We still have the original 'head tax' certificate issued to my great grandfather, which is a significant part of my heritage, because it symbolizes my family becoming Canadian, and also the struggles we went through to become Canadian," Chan said.

His family then opened a restaurant. "We got into the restaurant ­business, mostly in the Vancouver region. My family has a very long history of running Chinese restaurants," he said.

Opportunities in Shanghai

Chan visited Hong Kong every few years throughout his childhood, but he never visited the Chinese mainland until 2010, during his postgraduate years.

"I first came to Shanghai as part of an exchange program. My impression of Shanghai back then blew my mind," he said. "I never thought about moving to China before I came to Shanghai, because overseas media portrayal of China was not positive."

But his visit to Shanghai changed his previous impression of China. "I saw how people really lived; I saw the dynamic environment that Shanghai has; I saw the opportunities that are available here; I saw how hard people were working. Everyone seemed to walk two steps faster than everyone else in the world, because everybody here was trying to create something," Chan told the Global Times.

"That energy was unavoidable. That's one thing that all my classmates and I felt the moment we landed in Shanghai. It reminded us of New York in the 1980s, when almost everyone was hustling and bustling, trying to make money, trying to build businesses."

China is the future

"China really is the future, Shanghai is the future," Chan said. "The reason why I chose China [to start my own business] was the immense amount of opportunities here."

Chan also felt that working in the Chinese mainland better leveraged his personal skill set. He eventually decided to settle down in Shanghai, China's most international and dynamic city.

"Shanghai is the city where people from all over the world come to build the future. The infrastructure is in place; the population is in place; the culture is in place," Chan said.

He added that Shanghai's unique entrepreneurial atmosphere is also very strong, which influenced and motivated him to create his own business.

"I feel Shanghai is the perfect environment to start your own business, because you are surrounded by like-minded people," he said.

Rapid growth

Shanghai's vast population and equally large market have helped him test his business ideas here. "If it works in Shanghai, it will scale up very quickly."

Chan pointed out that infrastructure and IT technology have been China's biggest achievements over the past decade.

In terms of infrastructure, Chan is impressed by the speed of execution. He said he has never seen any country in the world build highways, bullet trains and subways all within such a short period time - and of such high quality.

As for technology, Chan said he is stunned by China's level of innovation. "If you can imagine, five years ago, China didn't have WeChat, Alipay, Didi, Mobike, Ofo," he said.

"Most of these technologies tend to take a country a decade to develop," Chan told the Global Times. "But China, in only a few years, has built up an entire O2O ecosystem for food, bikes, cars. Chinese companies have literally reinvented the concept of online-to-offline shopping."

Billy Chan and his team members


A family photo with Billy Chan Photos: Courtesy of Billy Chan



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