After much anxiety and tribulation, I have managed to get a visa to return to China.
It was, in the end, a surprisingly straightforward and painless - though fairly expensive - process (the new visa applications agency is impressively streamlined). It was finding out what paperwork I needed to support the application (in a context of constantly shifting and unpublished regulations), and then procuring that paperwork that ate up so much of my time and mental resource over the past few weeks.
I was very gratified by how many offers of help and support I received from Chinese friends and colleagues. In the end, I found myself with four or five possibilities for obtaining the bothersome 'invitation letter' that I needed in order to procure a 'business visa'.
Noticing my discomfort on this issue, one of the brainsick fenqing abusers dropped in here to snipe at me last week (a familiar irritant: I'd banned this particular one from the site years ago, but a goldfish memory seems to be among his mental deficits). He gleefully suggested that I would never get another visa: none of my Chinese contacts would give me the help I needed with the invitation letter because they all - quite rightly! - hated me. How wrong he was! As usual.
In fact, the great majority of Chinese people I've met - colleagues, business contacts, friends, acquaintances, landlords (well, maybe not landlords - other than my present one), neighbours, students, or casual encounters - regard me with considerable affection, and vice versa. Most Chinese, most of the time, are extremely outgoing, friendly, and helpful towards foreigners. It's a pity there's this nasty undercurrent of xenophobia that occasionally bubbles to the surface, but it mostly only finds expression through this unlovely minority of rabid Net-nerds.
Most foreigners who, like me, come to work in China long-term do so out of a fascination with and affection for the country. We put up with a lot of unpleasantness (a toxic environment, extreme weather, abysmal driving standards, an ungracious and unaccommodating government). We work, usually, for much less money than our expertise is really worth; for much less money, in many cases, than we could earn in other countries. We often do favours for people, contribute to charities, accept work with low pay or no pay if its object seems worthwhile. We pay our taxes, if asked to do so. We spend most of our money in China (even, in some cases, money which was actually earned overseas). And we make no demands on the Chinese welfare, education, or healthcare systems. Foreigners make a huge contribution to the Chinese economy, not only in the unique skills and knowledge they can introduce, but in concrete financial terms. And most of us are really nice about it, too.
We live in China because we like the country and we like the people - and we want to help. Only a handful of hate-filled dingbats would seek to exclude us because we might occasionally utter some uncomfortable truths about the country's social and political institutions.