Martin Alintuck could be considered one of China's most prominent communicators, and he did it without knowing Chinese.
"My first word was fapiao, or receipt," said Alintuck half-jokingly. "Somebody told me I need to know this word."
Alintuck, Managing Director of the Chinese branch of world's largest independent PR company, Edelman, might be an earsore in Mandarin. But the fact that he's a powerful communicator without knowing his host country's language fluently shows he's no dummy. He's an example of how even the most remote of American Dreams can come alive in China.
That's good news for Alintuck, who eventually wants to be a U.S. president.
"I have always wanted to be the president of the United States since I was very little; that's why I might get back to politics one day," he said.
Let's state the obvious: as a PR man in China, the prospects for that are slim.
But his American dream—the notion that he, or anyone, can do anything—is what keeps "president" on the to-do list and more China business success in the "been-there-done-that" category.
The day boring died
Alintuck had a pretty plain life growing up—a typical secure American life one might say.
Born and raised in Boston, he comes from a middle-class family of four kids. His father was in sales and his mother a stay-at-home mum. He was a "normal kid" in high school—pretty quiet and shy. The family traveled mainly in New England, with New York being the farthest place.
As a young adult, he worked for the mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts immediately after university in the 1980s.
But what he learned about pursuing happiness in those strait-laced years was important.
"The American dream is about growing up in a place that encourages everybody from very young to have great dreams and fulfill them," Alintuck said.
And, after working in PR for six years in San Francisco, that latent wisdom was central to correctly responding to a crucial telephone question.
"I will never forget when they called me and said, 'How would you like to go to China,' and at first I thought it was a joke," he said.
Expats who accept this challenge, like Alintuck, frequently have this subsequent thought: Why not? You can always go back home if it doesn't work out.
But—and this may be unique to China—the reality is often greater than the initial wide-eyed contemplation.
"That decision is the best thing I ever did in my life, which completely changed my life," Alintuck said.