From Brooklyn to Beijing, and Into a Caldron

The New York Times profiles a young African-American Brooklynite who moved to China and now runs a local school after the owner suddenly and without explanation closed up shop:

The small-business landscape in China is littered with stories of customers who have felt swindled by investors who have fled the scene. When Mr. Cabo started teaching at the Shangxuele Children’s Activity Center in suburban Beijing a few months ago, he certainly did not expect to be embroiled in one of them. Nor did he expect to use his personal savings to reopen the center.

In mid-July, its owners hung up a sign saying the center was undergoing plumbing repairs. Then they disappeared, leaving about 100 students and about 20 staff members in the lurch. It was only after Mr. Cabo called Yao Gang, one of the three owners, that he learned the center had been closed permanently.

“You read about this in the newspapers, but you never think it’s going to happen to you,” Mr. Cabo said. “I just felt so bad for these children.”

Mr. Cabo also sensed a business opportunity. China’s ultracompetitive system and the government’s population control policies, which generally limit urban families to one child, have created a vibrant market for extracurricular . Almost every middle-class couple is willing to spend extra money to give their child a leg up when applying to top-ranked universities.

So Mr. Cabo emptied his bank account of about 60,000 renminbi, or about $9,000, and began paying the bills. Now he is struggling to keep the center open, dealing not only with parents but also with corrupt police officers, physical violence toward his staff and bewilderment on the part of many Beijing residents at his very existence.

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