The Maverick of Moganshan
Mark Kitto was a captain in the British Army before his series of that’s listings magazines became the most successful English language publications in China. On the verge of signing a groundbreaking deal that would make him the first authorized foreign publisher in the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party took over his business. Variously accused of being a spy, pornographer and terrorist, he retreated to a dilapidated, beautiful Chinese mountain village. His efforts to gain a foothold, livelihood and respect on the mountaintop are recounted in his first book, ‘China Cuckoo, How I lost a fortune and found a life in China’. Mark returned to the UK in 2013. He lives with his wife and two children in North Norfolk and runs a very small publishing business. That’s China, the true story of Mark’s daring attempt to break open the China media sector, was finally published in November 2014.
That’s China: How A British Rebel Took On The Chinese Propaganda Machine
For seven roller coaster years, Mark Kitto outwitted powerful competitors and jealous partners to build that’s magazines, the most profitable and popular English language publishing business in China since 1949, until the government came calling. Long suppressed, Mark’s incredible story is now being told in full for the first time.
Restoring Life to Mountain Retreat Where Mao Napped — New York Times Profile of Mark
MOGANSHAN, China — The first to build and occupy European-style stone villas atop this bamboo-cloaked mountain were the foreign missionaries. Then came Big-Ear Du and other Shanghai gangsters looking for a getaway (or maybe hideaway). Later still, the big guns rolled in: Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong…
A Welshman, Mark Kitto, was the first foreigner in a half century to move back into a villa here. In 2003 he negotiated a 10-year lease with the military, and three years later moved in with his wife and children. Mr. Kitto, a former magazine publisher in Shanghai, renovated the villa with his wife, Joanna, a native of Guangzhou, and wrote about his move in a memoir, “China Cuckoo” (“Chasing China” in the United States).
Today, he is at the center of the revival of interest in the mountain among foreigners.
China Cuckoo: How I lost a fortune and found a life in China
New Edition of this China classic now available
Beautiful new jacket
New chapter by the author describing his decision to leave China after 15 years and discussing whether foreigners can ever really be at home in China.
About China Cuckoo
First published in 2009, China Cuckoo: How I lost a fortune and found a life in China is the charming true story of a witty and eccentric Sinophile Englishman and his Chinese tree-change. Now the book is available again in a new edition which continues the story of Mark’s adventures in rural China, and reveals his decision – after 15 years – to leave China.
Set in Moganshan a dilapidated, beautiful Chinese mountain village, the author, Mark Kitto, a former commodities trader and magazine publisher, is the first westerner to return and live in the village fifty years on.
Rejecting the corporate world, and the glamour of Shanghai, Mark eventually persuades his urbane Chinese wife to make Moganshan their permanent home. With a toddler in tow they take the bold step of moving their lives to the isolated village, taking over an old brothel to start a western style cafe.
You will never become Chinese — Mark’s Controversial Column for UK Prospect Magazine
Death and taxes. You know how the saying goes. I’d like to add a third certainty: you’ll never become Chinese, no matter how hard you try, or want to, or think you ought to. I wanted to be Chinese, once. I don’t mean I wanted to wear a silk jacket and cotton slippers, or a Mao suit and cap and dye my hair black and proclaim that blowing your nose in a handkerchief is disgusting. I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. For the past 16 years it has been precisely that. But now I will be leaving.
I won’t be rushing back either. I have fallen out of love, woken from my China Dream. “But China is an economic miracle: record number of people lifted out of poverty in record time… year on year ten per cent growth… exports… imports… infrastructure… investment…saved the world during the 2008 financial crisis…” The superlatives roll on. We all know them, roughly.
Risky Business in China — Mark Interviewed by The Telegraph (UK)
Mark, how did you first end up in China?
I studied Chinese at university in London, not only because of an interest in the language and culture but also with the aim to make a career in China. Later I joined the army, and in 1994 I took part in a joint Sino-British expedition through the Taklamakan Desert in northwest China’s Xinjiang Province. It was a “civilian” expedition, although many of us were connected with the military, or sponsored by UK companies with commercial interests or operations in China.
I met the chairman of one of those companies on our return. He’d heard I was about to leave the army and spoke Chinese. “You seem to like adventure,” he said. “How do you fancy becoming a merchant adventurer?” That’s how I became a metal trader in China.
You left your job in a metals company to build a magazine publishing empire in China. Why did you decide to make that change? And was taking on so different a career difficult?
After a few years I realised that metal trading was not the career for me. With all respect, trading commodities is about making money, as much and as quickly as possible. I did not find that satisfying. I’d long harboured an ambition to be a writer or journalist. As a foreigner in China (most places overseas for that matter) you can reinvent yourself more easily than at home. So I did. It was terrifying at first. I’d given up a secure job and didn’t have a clue about my new one. I didn’t have one in fact. I’d managed to bluff my way into getting a “string” for a UK metals magazine and pulled off a freelance travel article or two, but that was it.
Then I met someone who wanted to start an English language listings magazine and we became business partners.