China's Development: What Foreigners See

ByWang Shasha December 1, 2022


China's development has attracted worldwide attention in recent years. As the world's second-largest economy, China has not only greatly improved the lives of its own people, but has given foreigners in China opportunities to share in the fruits of development. Many foreigners living and working in China have witnessed the country's rapid development, and they have been impressed by Chinese people's confidence, optimism and unremitting efforts to create better lives for themselves. As both witnesses to and participants of China's development, these foreigners love China and have confidence in the country's future development. In this edition, five foreigners discuss their experiences in China, and they describe their impressions of China's development.

Christelle Chene (France)

Worldwide Brand Ambassador and International Affairs Director of Xige Estate


I have been living in China since 2011. When talking about the most-significant changes I have experienced in China in the last few years, I feel a bit overwhelmed, because so much has happened in such a short time. The wine region in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has been developing fast in recent years, but it has seen an entirely new stage of growth since the visit of President Xi Jinping in June 2020. That visit has given great support to the region; it has led Ningxia to become, in July 2021,  the first National Open Development Comprehensive Pilot Zone for the Grape and Wine Industry. The pilot zone is the first of its kind tailored to a specific industry, marking the inclusion of the local wine production in the national strategy. 

Ningxia has twice organized the China (Ningxia) International Wine Culture and Tourism Expo, which is an international platform to introduce Chinese wines to the world. Wine is a great cultural medium, and an international language, so I was happy to see so many people, from all around the country, both Chinese and foreigners, arrive in Ningxia to visit wineries and enjoy local delicacies, wines and cultural tourism, while getting to know more the region.

Xige Estate has been striving in recent years to open more distribution channels, and to supply more great Ningxia terroir wines to wine lovers worldwide. Our sales revenues have more than doubled, our export sales have boomed, and all of our partners are confident in the development of Xige Estate's brands. I believe it is still the very beginning of our journey; we will keep growing and launching new products, including new, green, ecological, sustainable and tourism projects.  


I have taken on a new position at Xige Estate; I have been named Worldwide Brand Ambassador and International Affairs Director, and given responsibility for export sales and brand promotion in both national and international markets. This year, I also received the title of International Ambassador for the Promotion of Ningxia Wine from the Management Committee of the Wine Industrial Park of the Helan Mountain Region. 

My personal story and experiences participating in the development of the Ningxia wine region have been shared by many important Chinese and foreign media, such as People's Daily, Central China Television, Xinhua News Agency, China Daily, and France Television. This is really a great honor that encourages me to keep working hard, because I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity to pratice my passion while working. 

Finally, after purchasing my first car in China, last year, I have purchased my own appartment, this year, in Yinchuan. Now, I can say I don't only feel at home in China, but I do really have a home in Ningxia!

Yipsy Trujillo Gonzalez (Cuba)

Founder and art director of Sanya Yipsy Ballet Art Center (Yipsy Balletto) 


I was once a member of the National Ballet of Cuba, one of the world's most prestigious ballet dance troupes. My bond with Sanya, in South China's Hainan Province, began in 2013. In April that year, I and my then-colleagues of the National Ballet of Cuba were invited to perform and work at a theater in Sanya for a few years. 

I met Liu Maosheng, who came from Northeast China's Liaoning Province, in 2015. We eventually married and settled down in the city.

With Liu's encouragement, I established a ballet-training center in 2018. All of the ballet teachers are from Cuba. Given our expertise and effective teaching approach, our center has won the trust of Chinese parents, and they are willing to send their children to learn ballet at the center. To date, we have taught more than 600 Chinese students, including children and adults. 

I often take my students to compete in ballet competitions, during which I find the level of amateur ballet dancers in China is getting higher. That indicates Chinese have attached great importance to education in the arts. 

We plan to establish a branch in Haikou, capital of Hainan, in the future. I feel happy that I can do my part to promote the development of ballet in China.


In the past, many Chinese might not have known that Cuba had a lot of excellent ballet dancers and teachers. I think we are like a bridge that connects China and Cuba, and we help the locals have a better understanding of Cuba and its culture.

In 2020, China unveiled a master plan to build the whole of Hainan Island into a globally influential and high-level free trade port by the middle of this century. Steady progress has since been made … It has been reported that more than 180 policies and measures have taken effect in Hainan, to facilitate trade and investment, during the past two years.

In this context, Hainan has implemented a series of policies and measures to better serve foreign talents, and to let us share China's development opportunities. Working and living in Sanya is now becoming more convenient for foreigners. 

Sanya has become a more vibrant, attractive and international city compared with nine years ago. I notice more and more foreigners choose to work and live in Sanya. Hainan's international cultural atmosphere is becoming increasingly strong, and there are more opportunities for foreigners to show their talents and excel in life. 

During the past nine years, I have not only established my career in the city, but I have also played a role in promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and Cuba. I believe China will have better development in the future, and China will also create more development opportunities for the world. 

Dr Percy David Papa Akuetteh (Ghana)

Lecturer in biology at College of Science and Technology, Wenzhou-Kean University


In July 2021, I earned my PhD in medicine at Wenzhou Medical University (WMU), in Wenzhou, in East China's Zhejiang Province, and that marked a perfect end to my 11 years of studying in the city.  

My desire to attend medical university was derived from my mother, who had worked as a nurse for over 30 years. After I searched online for medical universities in China, I decided to apply to WMU, given its high quality of teaching. Another reason I chose WMU was that I found it had many students from Ghana. I fell in love with the city from the very beginning, and I have never regretted my choice to come to China.

When I first arrived in Wenzhou, in 2010, I couldn't speak Chinese at all. But now, I speak fluent Mandarin, and the Wenzhou dialect, which is commonly known as one of China's top-10 most-difficult dialects to learn. 

I have my own way of learning languages; I learned Mandarin, the Wenzhou dialect and Cantonese by singing Chinese songs. As I have a talent for singing, I have participated in various singing competitions, and I have won several awards, such as Wenzhou Pop Music Best Foreign Singer Award, for my excellent performances of Chinese songs. I have also been invited to perform on various occasions, including the Spring Festival Gala, in Wenzhou, and the Wenzhou Pop Music Festival.

I met then-Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo during his visit to China in 2018, and I performed, as the lead singer for SoulBand, at a dinner party (in his honor). In August 2018, I attended the Second Global Health Youth Leadership Roundtable — China-Africa Dialogue in Beijing on Health Personnel Training, and I gave a speech as a representative of African youth. 

Wenzhou has developed rapidly in recent years. The improved urban ecological environment and the more convenient transportation have impressed me a lot. My foreign friends and I are amazed by "Chinese speed." 


When Wenzhou Rail Transit Line S1, also known as the High-speed Commuter Train Line S1, was put into operation in 2019, I posted a moment on WeChat, a popular Chinese social-media app. Soon after, I received many likes and comments from my Chinese and foreign friends. Even though some of my foreign friends have left China, they still care about Wenzhou and its development.

Wenzhou is my second hometown. My wife is a native of Wenzhou, and we have a daughter, who is now one-and-a-half years old. I have received a lot of help and care in Wenzhou, and I hope to give back to the city, and to China.

I have been telling the world stories about Wenzhou, Zhejiang and China via social-media and short-video platforms during the past few years. I would like more people to know the real China, and for them to fall in love with the country. I hope Wenzhou will continue to move forward to become an international and innovative city, and that it will attract more foreigners to study and live here.

Matt Mears (the United Kingdom)

Founder of Mears International English, an English-training organization


I moved to China in 2014, not knowing what to expect. I had travelled around Europe and Africa before but I had never lived abroad. I arrived in Guangzhou, in South China's Guangdong Province, in my 30s, single, with no responsibilities, no expectations and no long-term plans.

At first, I was shocked by how developed China was. I remember the taxi ride from the airport and how mesmerized I was by the seemingly endless tall buildings, stretching far beyond the horizon. I had never seen anything like it before. 

I met Nancy Feng in early 2016 at a house party. I knew right away that she was different. She wasn't cautious or shy, and she had a playful sense of humor. We got together and enjoyed a whirlwind romance.

Soon after, we made the decision to move to Yinchuan, in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, to open an English school. Looking back, we were naive: We'd never had any experience running a business. Nevertheless, our first few years were very successful.

When I arrived in Yinchuan, I spoke barely any Chinese, and I found it difficult to settle. Whenever we went out for dinner with Nancy's friends or family, I would sit in silence, feeling awkward. At that time, we were so consumed with our business that learning the language properly took a lot of effort.

On the day of our school's grand opening, in 2017, I shocked Nancy by proposing, in front of an equally surprised audience of invited guests. We married the following year in the UK. In January this year, our daughter Millie was born.


I've done a lot of growing up in China. When I arrived eight years ago, I had only the items in my suitcase. Now, I have a family, a business and a mortgage. Of course, these are life changes that happen to most people; but for me, they all happened a long way from home. 

I have a better understanding of China now than when I arrived in Yinchuan five years ago, but I'm still learning. I've found Chinese people fiercely loyal and capable of outstanding acts of generosity. What has also struck me is how much people believe in and love their country.

The biggest change to happen since I moved here has undoubtedly been COVID-19. It's the one thing that has changed our lives more than any other. I admire the way Chinese people have remained positive despite so much disruption to their lives. 

I miss my family in the UK but moving back seems like a risk. I know that the economic situation in China is likely to improve, allowing us to live a more prosperous and stable life. Chinese people have already shown once they have the will to overcome great obstacles, after lifting themselves out of poverty. I have every faith they get through the current problems and towards a brighter future.

Tim Vukan (Germany) 

Expert in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), founder of Wushan TCM, an online platform of TCM


I am a native of Hamburg, Germany. I became obsessed with Chinese kung fu after I watched some martial arts films of Bruce Lee (1940-1973). I began to learn Wing Chun from a German teacher at 18, and I dreamed of visiting China someday. My dream came true in 2004 — I went to Central China's Henan Province to learn martial arts. 

A month later, I went to Yangshuo, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and I learned tai chi from a teacher. She also taught me the Chinese language, and she helped me blend in with the locals. I noticed there were many vendors selling Chinese herbs there. It was also the same when I travelled to Southwest China's Yunnan Province. It was during that period of time that I began to develop a strong interest in TCM. 

With a tourist visa, I only stayed in China for about three months in 2004. But I made up my mind to study TCM in China. In 2005, I returned to China to learn TCM at Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, in Hangzhou, in East China's Zhejiang Province. In 2015, I received my master's degree in TCM from the university. 

To make TCM accessible to more people around the world, I set up the online education platform, Wushan TCM (, in 2008, to offer online courses on TCM culture, especially knowledge about yangsheng (nourishing life) and particular TCM therapies, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine. The courses are presented in three languages (English, German and Chinese). 

My mission is to popularize professional knowledge of TCM among foreigners using a simple and easy-to-understand language, and from a Western perspective. Now, the website has thousands of registered members, including TCM practitioners and ordinary people around the world. 

I also use social-media and short-video platforms to promote TCM culture. An increasing number of foreigners are interested in TCM, compared with a decade ago.


In the mobile Internet era, people's lives have become increasingly convenient with the popularity of mobile payments in China. Take medical services, for example; China has made better use of big data in ensuring and improving people's wellbeing, and in promoting "internet plus medical treatment" to make citizens' access to medical services more equitable and convenient. 

People can register on mobile apps before going to the hospital. Hospitals have introduced online diagnosis and treatment services for revisiting patients with common and chronic diseases, and hospitals have cooperated with third parties to provide drug-delivery services.

I have witnessed the rapid development and increased internationalization of Hangzhou during the past decade, and China has seen an increasing number of foreigners while continuing to open up. I love traditional Chinese culture, especially TCM culture. TCM has become an indispensable part of my life. I will continue to promote cultural exchanges and greater understanding of TCM culture in the world.


Photos Supplied by Interviewees and VCG

(Women of China English Monthly October 2022 issue)


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