Our Shenzhener of the Month: Jordan Dotson

Team Shenzhen Standard will be doing a series of profiles on prolific Shenzheners from now on. What defines a Shenzhener? We reckon someone that’s been here for around five years with an intent to stay, but that’s open to interpretation.

Our first Shenzhener in the series, ladies, we give you, Jordan Dotson.

How long have you been in China? Shenzhen?

I moved here in ’05, almost immediately after graduating college. After a month of studying at Beijing U, I moved down here & never left.

What brought you out here?

An atypical story, it seems. Originally I was taking a year off before graduate school. I was going back to get my MFA in poetry writing, but in my final semester of college, I became slightly obsessed with classical Chinese poetry. I knew that I was going to eventually pursue a PhD, and Chinese Lit was looking like the best field for me, so I wanted to get a head start on learning the language (required for doctorates in the US). So…I moved out here to teach English in a high school that would let me also let me teach creative writing. At the end of that first year, it was apparent that Shenzhen was the epicenter of the 21st century, so I withdrew from grad school & never looked back.

What keeps you here, esthetically speaking?

Basically the sense that the city and culture we’re living in, as grating as it is sometimes, will define the next hundred years of human history. Simply being here, as an artist, as an entrepreneur, or just as a loiterer, has a kind of gravity or importance that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

What are you working on now?

Now that’s a big question. Too many things to count. Primarily, at the moment, a new high school I’m helping found in Huanggang. It’s a cooperative project between the Futian Yunding School, an HK company called Ivy Elite Education, and Nobel Learning Communities in the US, & it will give Chinese students the opportunity to earn an accredited American diploma via an intensely rigorous curriculum. On top of that, the Hong Kong and international editions of my book, as well as constantly revising my first novel, the prospects of which don’t deserve the amount of time and focus I give to it.

You recently published a book, could you tell us a bit about publishing a book in China?

Don’t attempt it – that’s my best advice. And I’m only partly joking. Two years passed between finishing the manuscript and seeing the book in print for the first time last week. However, all the progress toward actually publishing the book occurred in the last three months. Only after cooperating with great partners, developing good connections, and learning the proper Chinese way of doing things…was there ever a glimmer of success.

If someone has aspirations of publishing in China, they have to know that the industry has absolutely no semblance to traditional Western publishing. Whole different ball game. The only thing you can do is shut up, forget everything you know about books, & try desperately to find a Chinese advisor with publishing experience who’ll tell you exactly what needs to happen. Then again, that’s probably why my publisher said that I’m the first foreign author to publish a Chinese book in China with nationwide distribution and full govt. support, without the book having been published previously in a different language. I don’t know if that’s true, but after two years of trying to do things the Western way & failing miserably, I’m inclined to believe it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

On a beach in Thailand with my guitar and a bottle of champagne. But that’s entirely false. More likely, splitting time between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, continuing to grow the reputation of Ivy Elite Education and building a nationwide brand for my own Dotson & Associates college prep tutoring company. And hopefully publishing a novel or two.

Where do you see your industry in five years?

The overseas education industry in China already pulls in tens of billions of dollars annually. It’s exploded in the last five years, and sure as heck ain’t slowing down in the next five. The good thing is that it’s moving away from being an industry of shady hustlers and scam artists (an unfortunate reality of speed-of-light economic development). Chinese families are becoming much more educated about international schooling, so the market is only going to continue swelling for companies that offer real value, that really teach kids and give them a better shot at life.

What’s the best thing about living in Shenzhen?

I feel compelled to say the opportunities and the dynamism, but that wouldn’t be honest. Dim sum, no winter, friendly people and beautiful women (of all nationalities).

Anything I’ve left out?

I have to say that I love Shenzhen. The city has defined my life thus far, and I’m thankful for the luck that brought me here. And of course that my book,  is available in all of the Book Cities in town and on DangDang.com.

Thanks Jordan, Team Shenzhen Standard wish you and your book the best of success.


Know of any other prolific Shenzheners? Are you one yourself? Drop us a line!

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