In Hunan-Africa Enterprise Cooperation Center (located in Houhu International Arts Park, Yuelu District, Changsha, Hunan)， Haky, a young Pakistani in gray business suit, was phoning his Chinese partner in English. “We have orders of consumer goods from Pakistani department stores, and we are looking for suppliers,” Haky later told CNS.
With the rise of China's economy, an increasing number of young foreigners choose to work, strive and live in China. Haky, now 37, is one of them. “Hunan is opening up. More and more international exchanges and foreign trade are happening here, especially exchanges and cooperation with countries and regions participating in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). We can see huge opportunities for development,” said Haky when speaking of his choice of Hunan. “Changsha (capital city of Hunan) has many direct international flights and transportation advantages.”
Haky registered an international trading company in Hunan-Africa Enterprise Cooperation Center, mainly engaged in machinery and equipment, electronic products, building materials, new materials and other businesses. Starting a business in Hunan made Haky feel “at home”.
“At the beginning, I neither knew the market nor had any resources or friends, it was difficult to get or close a deal. The government and relevant departments offered to take us to investment promotion activities and provide guidance on starting a business,” said Haky. As a key platform for Changsha to integrate into the Belt and Road initiative, Hunan-Africa Enterprise Cooperation Center, where Haky’s business is based, provides young and talented foreigners in China with 21 considerate services, such as visa application, trade incubation, company registration, legal consultation and business investigation.
“The Pakistani government had a plan to purchase electric vehicles, and the center introduced BYD Auto and other Chinese companies to me,” said Haky. “Hunan has built a new bridge for international students and young people to start businesses here.”
Having lived in Hunan for many years, Haky has already got used to the spicy local food, especially fell in love with stinky tofu, stir-fried pork with peppers and spicy crayfish, and witnessed Hunan’s flourishing development. “Compared with Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai and other developed cities, the developing Changsha offers more job and investment opportunities for foreigners, and has more advantages in imports and exports,” said Haky. “More and more countries and international enterprises are seeking cooperation in Hunan, and products “made in Hunan”， such as construction machinery, daily necessities and building materials, have also entered many countries and regions participating in BRI.”
Data from the Department of Commerce of Hunan Province shows that in 2020, Hunan's foreign trade managed to grow during the pandemic, with a total import and export value of 487.45 billion yuan, up 12.3% year on year. Therein, cooperation with countries and regions participating in BRI continued to heat up, with imports and exports reaching 147.28 billion yuan, up 19.7%.
The new infrastructure offers new opportunities for high-quality development in countries and regions participating in BRI. Haky, who learned to be aggressive in dealing with people from Hunan, plans to seize this opportunity and expand trade this year.
“Mixers and other construction machines are highly needed in Pakistan and other countries and regions participating in BRI. The construction machines made in Hunan are very famous and I want to find some suppliers,” Haky said. In order to find new opportunities for cooperation, Haky and some other foreign entrepreneurs in Hunan recently grouped up to attend the Inauguration ceremony of CCOIC Equipment Manufacturing Industry Committee.
Ever since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Pakistan, the two countries have long been helping and supporting each other. The profound and unbreakable friendship between the two countries is said to be “as strong as iron”. In addition to his business plan in China, Haky is also enhancing this friendship with practical actions.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in China, the country was badly in short of anti-epidemic materials. Haky immediately went to Pakistan to buy 3,000 face masks, but was unable to ship them. He then found a Brazilian partner to purchase masks, and wrote an urgent email to the headquarters of the shipping company, and finally made them arrive at Hunan ten days ahead of the original date.
“The epidemic knows no borders. Hunan is my second home. When family members are in need, I’ll do my best to help them out,” said Haky. He also taught his friends and family what he learned in China. “Wear masks, wash your hands, try to stay home, and don't open the delivery package immediately, but spray alcohol first。” These methods helped Haky's family and friends protect themselves.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of China-Pakistan friendly relations. “The Pakistani people are very friendly to the Chinese people. They often greet the Chinese people, some can say ‘Ni Hao’ and ‘Peng You’ (meaning “Hello” and “friend” in Chinese) and ask to take photos with the Chinese people,” said Haky, nearly half of whose WeChat friends are Chinese.
Hunan and Pakistan have extensive exchanges and cooperation in traditional Chinese medicine, culture, agriculture, education and science and technology. Hunan University of Chinese Medicine and Karachi University of Pakistan have jointly established “China-Pakistan Ethnic Medicine Research Base” and “China-Pakistan TCM Clinical Research Center”. When COVID-19 broke out overseas, Yinhuang Qingfei Capsule, a traditional Chinese medicine in Hunan, also helped Pakistan fight the epidemic.
“Many young Pakistanis are fond of Hunan embroidery and TV programs made by Hunan. They hope to strengthen communications with Chinese in people-to-people exchanges, digital economy and internet to further deepen China-Pakistan friendship,” added Haky. In the eyes of young Pakistanis, China is a very successful country. Therefore, he has a plan to organize a visit of young Pakistanis to China after COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at passing on China-Pakistan friendship from generation to generation.