A star is born: US expat in Chinese publicity film wows with his silky language skills

Terry Crossman, 62, has lived in China’s capital for 22 years and describes himself as a ‘typical Beijinger’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 8:04pm

An American man who has spent the past 22 years living in Beijing has become a hit on Chinese social media after starring in a promotional video for the city’s public security volunteer scheme.

In the film, which has been widely circulated online, 62-year-old Terry Crossman is seen riding his electric bicycle through the alleyways of Xicheng district where he lives, chatting with locals in perfect Putonghua, before heading off to meet a Chinese woman, who is a member of the “Capital Public Security Volunteer” scheme.

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The two of them are then seen walking the streets, dispensing help and advice to locals and foreigners alike. At one point, Crossman even gives a drink of water to a grateful Chinese tot.

“I don’t see myself as a foreigner,” Crossman says in the video. “I am a typical Beijinger.”

In an interview with Beijing Youth Daily, he said he started learning Chinese when he arrived in Taiwan as a teenager in 1973.

He later worked in Hong Kong for 12 years, where he picked up Cantonese, before moving to Beijing in 1995, the report said.

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The video, sponsored by local government, was produced to promote volunteering work in Xicheng. Although Crossman is its breakout star, he said he was worried that he might soon have to leave the city he has called home for so long.

“China does not have a retirement visa policy, and that’s a pity for me,” he said, adding that he had recently retired from his job and would therefore no longer be entitled to a work visa.

Internet users were upset by his predicament.

“I think we should issue green cards to foreigners who have contributed to our country,” said one of the most popular comments on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

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Others said they were impressed with Crossman’s language skills and hoped the government would help him to stay.

The American said that if he had to leave Beijing, he would consider returning to Hong Kong or Taiwan, or possibly moving to Thailand.