Meet An Expat: A Teacher In Tianjin With An IQ Of 180 Who Quite Literally Has No Nationality

Meet an Expat blurred faces

We were playing liar’s dice at El Nido when a pair of loud, demonstrably buzzed expats plopped down next to us on the wooden outdoor table. We made fast acquaintances. “Whoa, your English is really good,” said the man pictured above, to me. “You sound American.”

And we were off. We learned that the man — who introduced himself to us with his Chinese name, though we’ll just call him Lee [Ed's note: we've changed his name and his son's by request; see update, below] — was, despite all appearances, not American. And unlike his friend, Natsun, he was not Canadian, either. He tried to convince us he was Chinese. We expressed our doubts, and that’s when he admitted, OK, he wasn’t Chinese… yet. He was merely on his way toward Chinese citizenship.

I wondered aloud, “Don’t you have to spend a certain number of years here before you can apply for that?”

“Not if you’re stateless,” he replied.

For you see, Lee recently renounced his American citizenship, and it wasn’t for tax reasons. It was for his family.

When his Chinese wife was pregnant nearly two years ago, “I was in a difficult situation,” he said. “I was facing three choices: being visa-less, leaving China, or being stateless. My wife didn’t have the money, she didn’t have a passport, she didn’t have any way of going to any other country. If I was going to leave China, I was going to put them in a difficult situation.”

He tried hiring an agent to obtain a business visa for him, but that plan fell through (after he’d relocated to Yunnan thinking it would work, exhausting his funds in the process; in case you were wondering, he moved to Yunnan from Guangzhou, which his wife thought was a dirty place, bad to give birth in; and before that, they were in Xiamen, because “I’m a southerner,” Lee said, “so when the first winter came in Tianjin, I said, This is far too cold for me, let’s get out of here”). He and his wife made their way back to Tianjin, where she gave birth to a son (Lee: “Fuck if I know” what his Chinese name means). And then the American — quite reasonably, in his opinion, but against his friends’ and wife’s wishes — renounced his citizenship.

“It feels like a burden off my shoulder, to be honest,” he said. “Being visa-less is much worse. Basically, there’s no line of deportation, no path of deportation ahead of me at this point. I feel relieved. My family is the most important thing to me.”

The eugenicist

Lee came to China in 2009 because, in his words, “I wanted to marry a Chinese girl and have a kid.”

Natsun, sitting across from him, interjected, “His understanding was Chinese people are the smartest people.”

“Besides Caucasians,” Lee said.

“So it would only make sense that he would marry a Chinese person and improve his gene pool.”

Lee called himself a eugenicist. And being one, why wouldn’t he pick the best place (the best race?) to ensure he self-propagates to the best of his ability?

“I came to China because I believe China has a good future,” he said. “In 40, 50 years, the upper class of China will be comparable to the upper class in the US. And my ability to excel in the US is limited. I’m run-of-the-mill there, nothing extraordinary. But once I come here, I’m automatically middle-upper class. I have the means to give my son a better education and ensure he’s part of the upper echelon.”

He readily acknowledged that he made this decision before he had his son, even before he met his wife (at a computer bar where she was employed and which he frequented to make calls), but he always had this nebulous “future child” in mind.

“There’s logic,” he said. “I’m not crazy, but I’m crazy. I’m a crazy fucker, but it’s logical.”

As logical as a man with his background could be, anyway.

An interesting life story

Lee was wronged in the US — not by the country itself, but the circumstances of living there. An Illinois native who grew up in Florida, he battled hardship all his life, and experienced the sort of tragicomic calamities that only befall people you don’t know — stories that, once you hear, make you think, “Well fuck, that’s more trauma than I’ve endured in my lifetime.” The appropriate metaphor is less “poorly dealt hand” than “cheating dealer”: and it was a game he was forced to play with a constantly escalating ante.

Yet somehow, Lee survived, possibly because of a preternatural acumen. He claimed he scored a 180 on a psychologist-administered IQ test when he was in grade school. He attended middle school for just two months — due to delinquency, mostly — and high school for just one day, but eventually passed the GED without even studying. “And now I’m making 20,000 RMB a month,” he noted.

“I love science, mathematics,” he said. “Theoretical mathematics. Number theory. Primality. My speciality is dealing with prime numbers and integer fractionalization. That’s my hobby, is fractioning integers.”

He explained that this entails figuring out a speedier way to break down numbers into their constituents.

“If someone found some way to do that, all computer, all bank encryption would be obsolete,” he said. “It’s not known how to do that at the moment. Once someone finds a way to do that, it’ll change the world. That’s my hobby right now.

“I’m an amateur of science – the original definition of amateur, ‘lover of.’”

His other hobby is brewing beers using a combination of traditional Chinese methods (inoculating with fungus) and Western methods.

“In a few months I’m hoping to be bottling my beer and trading it with other home brewers in Tianjin and Beijing,” he said. “I’d like to perfect it because right now it’s such an abstract idea — it’s not going to be good enough for resale in the immediate short term.”

His future, the son

At some point, they began to speak loudly, drunkenly, because their “last beer” kept leading to another “last one,” which led to another “last one”…

“The reality is, China is expected to surpass the US in economy by 2050,” Lee said. “The upper class in China by that time will be better than the US’s standard upper class. By coming to China, I can ensure I can send him” — his son, splayed around his neck — “to the best school. In China, I make 20,000 RMB (a month). That’s really high. I can send him to a great school. By doing this, I can send him to the best school in Tianjin, in Beijing. I’m going to send him to the Young Communist Party [League]. I can ensure he’s really successful. When he’s 30 or 40, he’s going to be in a really good position.

“His whiteness will add a flavor to his personality that’s also going to be beneficial. I want him to speak native English but also be able to speak Chinese fluently.”

This entire time, the boy in his arms was fast asleep and clinging to his dad with all his strength. When Lee tried to hand him to Natsun so he could use the bathroom, the boy began to whine

“You fucking asshole!” Natsun blurted as he handed the boy back.

The people at the other table who overheard this laughed. At least one of my companions, however, didn’t find it funny that Lee also called his boy an asshole (though it’s true — find me one two-year-old who isn’t), and he seemed genuinely concerned that the father let the toddler sip beer out of a glass.

But over the course of the evening, the bond between father and son was evident. His son was separated from his dad for maybe one minute, when a passing Chinese woman called to the child and gushed over his cuteness.

“My goal in life is to have children that are successful,” the 24-year-old father said, stating he wants five children. “And where I see myself in five years is paving the way to my future.”

Later that evening, Natsun, Lee and his son leave for Beijing South Railway Station to catch an 11 pm train back to Tianjin. They’ve consumed many, many beers, and are deliriously happy, and saying how they should move to Beijing. The child is still comfortably asleep.

UPDATE, 4/23: Natsun’s response.

UPDATE, 1/1/14: Lee emailed us on New Year’s Eve to say this post may be impeding his plans to “naturalize and build my identity.” He asked us to change the names in this post, which we have obliged. He also offered this update:

A few months after our encounter at the bar, the American embassy called me in for another meeting; they had a man from Homeland Security question me as to my motives. When I had answered all of their questions, they provided a stamped version of my renunciation affirmation.

I was using my wife’s I.D. to commute to Beijing and back at the time, but soon realized that I couldn’t depend on that being a viable option in the future. I researched for travel documents that could be provided for the stateless and refugees. Ultimately, I only found one viable option which was the “World Passport.” Submitting the required materials and information, my new passport arrived soon thereafter. It has been a blessing, allowing me to travel and survive while I exist in this gray limbo. Despite all of its uses, it is not part of their list of passports that they have to click on when you apply for a visa. Thus, I am ineligible for any type of legal documentation at the moment. The office of foreign affairs has been attempting to help me, or at least document my situation… though I can only imagine my application for naturalization sits buried in some large stack of papers on the desk of one with far more pressing concerns than what to do with me.

In the meantime, I have been fairly successful despite my disadvantage. Offering my efforts as a volunteer for my wife allows us to have a decent income without breaking any laws; I/she/we have even been promoted recently.

Only the long wait of bureaucracy limits us for now, but the wait isn’t too bad. In fact, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

26 Responses to “Meet An Expat: A Teacher In Tianjin With An IQ Of 180 Who Quite Literally Has No Nationality”

  1. King Baeksu

    So if he gets tossed in the clink for working without a proper visa, he can thank Beijing Cream for publishing his photo and city of residence. Well, at least he’ll have plenty of time to focus on “fractioning integers,” lol.

  2. Fei MaiDe

    Wow! The arrogance of an American mixed the naivety of somebody in their early twenties as well as the social charm and drinking abilities of a Southerner! That alone is some great eugenics! Meanwhile why has somebody with an IQ of 180 not read far enough into the history books to find out that eugenics doesn’t work? Lastly, if he makes 20,000 RMB a month, why doesn’t he give some to his wife so she could…. leave a country of her own free will? UGH OK I’m done. Thanks for reminding me why I pretend to not speak English while abroad.

  3. Neru Kaneah

    I like the spicy spirits at El Nido and the “punk beer special offer” and they have the best laoban in town. But as the tourists and expats flock in, I’ll have to move on…My dear Dongcheng gentrified.

    By the way. Great Blog!

  4. The Good Doctor

    how was jackson, “wronged in the US — not by the country itself, but the circumstances of living there.” did he actually tell you? why not share? and if he didn’t tell you how he was wronged, then you need to say that he claims he was wronged.

    i think that if more chinese women knew about jackson’s story, fewer chinese women would be interested in dating laowai. (i’m guessing that’s probably a 1:1 relationship.)

    • The Tao

      I wanted to respect his wishes to keep certain details off the record. I’ll add here that he did not seem bitter about his past, which I thought was a real credit to him.

  5. Alec

    How can someone with a 180 IQ think that his son’s part-whiteness will positively affect his future in China? Unless he’s planning for his son to teach ESL as well?

  6. Goodforhim

    Nice looking kid (and his son too).
    I don’t think he has an IQ of 180 but I do believe he is an American since he doesn’t have any sense of irony – going to China in the cause of Eugenics! Aldous Huxley (Brave New World c. 1930) was a eugenicist but flipped when he realised the movement was class conscious and xenophobic and not good for sales of Penguin paperbacks. Then of course, the Nazis… The Eugenics Society is still around and they list all members current and past. I wondered if they had anyone called Eugene on the list and sure enough…Yes, they are still serious about it. I didn’t see any Chins or Chans on the list.

  7. Dingles

    For a person believing in eugenics it seems he chose the wrong “race” to combine his super IQ DNA with. Doesn’t eugenics also involve physical features such as potential muscle mass, height, athletic ability, and wang size? The clear choice for a eugenics believer would be a tall, strong Nordic woman. Then again, if said Nordic woman was also an ardent believer of eugenics, she would glaze right over Mr. Xie.

  8. Lee

    Well Anthony, I finally had the chance to read your article and while you came across as having enjoyed our conversation at the time, it now seems that you do not think too highly of me. At-the-least, you took parts of our conversation that were said in fleeting moments of jest and put them in declaratory forms, in stark contrast to my obvious intentions when making them. Nevertheless, you are a journalist and it should have been expected. I was fairly intoxicated at the time and let my better judgement slip off.

    Now, my real concern is not with the author of this piece, but rather the incoherent gibberish that was spewed from the imbeciles who commented. Please, allow me to break down, quite articulately, why exactly every one of you are absolutely ridiculous and flawed in your responses.

    Wombadan,
    And why exactly is it that this is a “car crash”, as you put it? I love living in China and I love my family. Is there some fundamental reason that pursuing those things should be frowned upon? Perhaps, and this is just perhaps, you should think somewhat before you post next time. It could save you from looking like a dick.

    King Baeksu,
    I do not work illegally. Further, I never said that I “fraction integers”, what I stated was that my hobby was factoring integers. Rather yet, I said that my hobby was looking for ways to factor integers more efficiently than what is currently being done. I imagine that the author’s lack of knowledge in that field led to the mistaken print.

    Fei MaiDe,
    You never stated a reason why you pretend not to speak English abroad. You made quite the list of stereotypes that are applied to various categories that I fall into and then said that I should somehow know that eugenics does not work without citing any reason nor source to your claim.

    Eugenics has worked for a good many billion years, it has worked under the titles of natural selection, animal husbandry, crop breeding and selective breeding. Luckily for you, I know what you are referring to when you say that it does not work. Unfortunately for you, that was not eugenics, but rather a witch hunt against an entire race that disregarded all of the tenets of selective improvement through breeding. That is to say for those less versed in the subject, your counter-argument is null and non-applicable. If you ever decide to read and think about something before you open your mouth or type a sentence again, please let me know. We could have a conversation.

    Oh, and one more thing, the article stated that I am making 20,000 a month now. I was not making that when I first came here, I had to earn my way up the ladder through hard work and quality service. Now that we can afford to do so, I am paying my wife’s way through university. You seem to have not noticed that I am wanting to stay here rather than take her abroad.

    The Good Doctor,
    Why would they be any less interested in dating a foreigner from hearing my story? I take care of my family and responsibilities, I work hard and earn a decent income and I have taken steps to ensure that I will be able to continue doing those things in the future by becoming a Chinese national. If for some reason you feel that a loving father and husband are repellents towards Chinese women, you may be dating the wrong kinds of girls.

    Alec,
    My son appears Chinese all except for having light skin,large eyes and light hair. He is basically what every Chinese wish that they were. It may be that you have never met a mixed kid that lives in China, but they are treated very well. Other Chinese typically adore half-bloods.

    Goodforhim,
    Thank you for your complements. I somehow doubt that my I.Q. has remained where it was at that time as well. It is funny that that was even put into the article. If I remember correctly, my friend must have mentioned it rather than myself. It sounds awfully condescending, especially when added to the whole eugenics thing.

    I am a eugenicist in the sense that I do believe in evolution and do not make a point of adhering to liberal creationism. Any man who has the slightest ability to reason should find it quite evident that there are those amongst us that are naturally more gifted. This giftedness can take many forms and, unless you believe that biology rolls dice, it is a result of genetics. These individuals appear across all races and classes, though their gifts and concentrations vary.

    Dingles,
    Evolution is not linear, there is no “better race”. The traits that I happen to find of value are spread out predominately amongst Caucasians and east-Asians. Though, it is more than simply choosing a partner that has those features, it also involves choosing a niche. If I chose a strong, tall, Nordic woman with a huge “wang”, it may give me stronger, taller and better endowed children, but where would they be? If you are superman but live on a planet full of super-heroes, it does not really make you that special. There are simply too many people competing for the same niche in that situation. I chose a niche that was untapped and offered a decent opportunity. Besides, not to be a braggart, but I am pretty physically capable, not a giant but of decent height and my “wang”, well, even if my son only receives partial dominance of that trait, he is going to be doing quite well for himself. ;)

    Andy,
    And you sound like a faggot. You sound like someone who loves to take a large hard cock and stick it in their tight little faggot ass. The thing is, my conclusion of you is probably far more accurate than yours of me, even given that mine was stated in jest and to do nothing more than illustrate the uselessness of such comments.

    Kirby,
    Thank you for your kindness, your long, thought out, decision to post an insulting comment about someone you know nothing of was a shining example of the kind of thought process that is needed in the world. If only more people could take from your example and come online, posting insults to sully the image of those they do not know, the world would be amazing. The kind of place I would like top raise my son. You know, I think it is catching on. The other comments here seem to be following your lead!

    I somehow doubt that any of you will ever come back and respond to me calling you out on your buffoonery. If you ever do, please, just stop and realize that I am a real person with real feelings. I made my own choices while following a path of my own choosing. There is no benefit that befalls you coming on here and insulting me, it is nothing more than bullying. As I already stated, I am a loving father, devoted husband and if you do not like that then, please, go fuck yourselves.

    • The Tao

      “It now seems that you do not think too highly of me” — quite the contrary. Your next beer is on me.

    • kirby

      Hi [name withheld]. Thanks for your reply. Here are a couple of my quick thoughts on why I think your decision is a little short sighted.

      Based on my understanding of this situation you are currently 24. How old is your wife? I ask because in order for you to obtain a license to have a baby in China, the man needs to be 25 and the woman needs to be 23. There are exemptions to this, for instance if you are a foreign national, but if you gave up your citizenship in another country, I am afraid you might now be in a weird no man’s land where you have an undocumented child in China. The article quotes you as saying one of your goals for your son is that you want him to attend one of the best schools in China. Without proper documentation that will be extremely difficult. You son is currently, not school age but I think that this could be an issue for you down the road…i.e. short sighted because you didn’t necessarily know the downstream consequences of your actions today.

      In addition, who knows where things will be in 10 or 15 years, giving up your citizenship before you are in a position to have a ready alternative path of citizenship is short-sighted. Chinese regulations are often applied arbitrarily, therefore, I am concerned about your being able to acquire Chinese citizenship….if for no other reason than the Chinese government decides not to give it to you.

      Overall, I wish you the best and I hope you are able to achieve your goals. I am concerned whether or not you have thought through all of the possible consequences of your actions, and to me that is why your thought process comes across as shortsighted.

  9. Bill

    Intolerance comes to mind here. I (as a Southern American) enjoyed this article up to the point of the commentaries. The writer was doing what all people should experience, an exchange of culture, knowledge, acceptance and shared it with others. Sounds like [name withheld] (aka. [Lee]) and Natsun were a bit inebriated at the time of the interview and the wrong ideas were misconceived by the readers and [Lee] in his rebuttal to the commenters. I respect that [Lee] priority is to his family and to ambition(s) in life, despite the setbacks earlier in his life. However to include Eugenics as reasoning for his choices, did disturb me. I think the better term would have been Adaptive Evolution (this includes intellect/behavior), Eugenics would never work due to its ultimate perversion, racism and intolerance throughout history and the world. We as humans need to accept one another, despite the differences and opinions or we will fade from existence. Hope this helps to smooth things over for everyone.

    • J

      I think you’re right. The whole Eugenics idea makes it like a marriage of convenience( for him). And all these disputes and hatred is because the author didn’t make it right.

  10. King Baeksu

    From the original post: “I was facing three choices: being visa-less, leaving China, or being stateless.”

    And now: “I do not work illegally.”

    Things are not adding up here. You yourself claim that you have no visa, which would only make sense since your US passport, now invalid, is no longer able to bear foreign visas, and you seem to lack a Chinese passport or citizenship at this point. I suppose you would be able to qualify for a spousal visa since your wife is Chinese, but my understanding is that technically those do not grant the right of legal employment by themselves, but require sponsorship by a local company, and in any case you again lack a valid passport so it’s a moot point.

    My IQ seems to be not as high as yours. Care to edify me? How can one work “legally” and earn 20,000RMB a month without a visa or a passport from one’s birth nation?

    • D

      It is hard to say whether it is illegal or legal. More likely, [name withheld] falls into a murky gray area in China’s administration of persons.

      He case is quite different from the better known condition of North Korean refugees, who are still nationals of their country. Koreans can be deported back to North Korea. In fact, if a North Korean living illegally in the country has a child with a Chinese national, their offspring can only get Chinese citizenship and hukou if the local police are provided with evidence of the Korean parent’s deportation.

      This does not apply to [Lee]. From what I can tell, his condition seems more similar to those of the Burmese refugees down south. He has no nationality of any sort. Ordinarily, international law is supposed to prevent this from happening. Normally, you cannot renounce your citizenship unless another country is prepared to grant you citizenship.

      I will simply assume he found some way around this.

      That being the case, [Lee] cannot be deported because there is nowhere that will accept him. He has formally ended his status as a US national, meaning the US would not accept him even if China tried to send him there.

      In countries which are signatories to 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, those in [Lee]‘s situation are given a gray UN book which shows their status and gives them the right to work without needing a visa. However, China is not a signatory to this convention. Neither is the US, actually – it seems very few countries are.

      As such, it is up to China to decide how to manage [Lee].

      I am not clear on the particulars, but I would assume he has been given some kind of documentation since he can travel. Some countries will issue travel-only passports to stateless persons that allow them to move about freely but stop short of conveying on them the full rights of a citizen. Perhaps these papers also grant him the right to seek employment and provide him with a number so he can pay into the insurance system.

      Assuming they do not, then I would have to say that [Lee] is working neither legally nor illegally: he is simply existing in a crack that the Chinese government has absolutely no interest in addressing.

      That crack ensures he can stay together with his wife and child, so I’d say he accomplished his mission.

      God speed, dude.

      And for anyone else who is considering renouncing their US citizenship, please make sure that you file a Form 1040 with the IRS every year. You must have filed every year for the last five years – even if you didn’t have to – or the US government will assume you are guilty of tax evasion and deny your request.

    • Brett Hunan

      So he is basically like an unregistered second child of a Chinese family… only not Chinese.

  11. Lucifer

    What a dunce. I wonder if he realizes that when China crashes they will not even let him enter the U.S. again ever, and that his kid is not American either?

    The U.S. does not practice Universal citizenship, so if he renounced it, he can never get it back. He would have to immigrate just like anybody else.

    Seriously retarded move.

  12. Another laowai

    Or more so, how about that Mr. [name withheld] is just full of drunk crap. You cannot give up a citizenship to your country. Not in China. The article is just another example of the stupid hick trash which walks the street of Beijing.

    He white skin will give him an upper hand. Puhleeze dumbass.

  13. Cerebus

    One of the most intriguing articles I’ve read in a long time. You seem to have a very unusual life xD. Anyways well good for you for pursuing your dreams and may I ask what line of work you do that could earn you 20000 RMB a month? o.o given your education level.

    • Cerebus

      Like I know that you are a teacher but 20000 RMB sounds like a lot for a teacher…are you some kind of professor?