Foreigners in China are never really accepted by the Chinese as anything but foreign. No matter how long we live in China, a native Chinese will never accept us as Chinese. But just as Toronto, Vancouver or San Fransisco would not be the same without their Chinatowns (well, okay, Vancouver IS one big Chinatown now), so Beijing, Shanghai and even Dalian would not be the same without their foreign enclaves. We are a part of modern China. Furthermore, since many of us are teachers, we don't just introduce our students to English, but also to Western culture and ideas. If we foreign teachers are teaching children or adolescents, we have the opportunity to influence the future of China- hopefully for the better. Certainly, we play an important role in our students' lives, as they do in ours.
Relatively few Chinese have travelled outside of China, so apart from Hollywood movies, we expats are the first contact most Chinese will have with the world. It is up to us to refute stereotypes, increase understanding and promote friendly feelings between China and the West. Of course, one bad apple can undo the good will built up by all the other foreigners. But whenever I tell Chinese that I am Canadian, they always mention Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who went to China in the 1930s to help the Chinese. Because of him- that one Canadian- Chinese feel friendly towards all Canadians.
We foreigners are employees, customers, tenants, and sometimes landlords, merchants and employers in China. To Chinese, we are friends, colleagues, teachers or students. Some of us become more: wives or husbands, brothers or sisters-in-law, uncles or aunts, fathers or mothers. We may be Canadian, Australian, American, New Zealanders or British. But we are also Chinese.