In Panama, a Chinese businessman succeeds but stays connected

Updated 2017-10-26 10:04:02 China Daily

From his hometown in the Huadu district of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Mai Qijia told his story of leaving for Panama at the age of 32, looking for better business opportunities.

He was one of hundreds of people from the district who sought profits abroad in the early 1980s, shortly after China had begun to implement its reform and opening-up policy.

Before moving, Mai, now honorary president of the Chinese Association of Panama, ran a store in China specializing in hardware accessories and farm machine maintenance.

"Like other people who had already gone abroad, I wanted to go and expand business," said Mai, now 61.

But life was tough in the first several years. Mai could only find work at a supermarket operated by Chinese people.

Later, he started his own supermarket.

"It took me five years to start my own business in Panama," Mai said, adding that about 80 percent of the service businesses in the country are operated by Chinese.

Mai expanded further, taking on a construction company and introducing more than 100 people from Huadu to Panama to help run his businesses.

His supermarket business in Panama is now mainly operated by his son, and Mai frequently flies back to Huadu.

"Young people in my hometown now are not willing to go abroad simply for business. China's rapid economic development in recent decades has provided huge opportunities for them to start businesses at home," Mai said.

He estimates that 200,000 overseas Chinese are living in Panama, of whom more than 25 percent are natives of Huadu.

Mai brought his wife and two children to Panama five years after he first arrived.

"My family has settled down in Panama and has developed businesses there," he said. "But my son has often talked to me about how we could start new businesses at home."

China and Panama established diplomatic ties in June, and Mai hoped a direct flight would begin soon between the two countries. He travels frequently.

"A direct flight would help boost trade and social interaction," he said. "We overseas Chinese would benefit a lot from the convenience."

China is the second-heaviest user of the Panama Canal after the United States. Trade between the two countries reached .5 billion in 2016, according to the General Administration of Customs.

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which ended in Beijing on Tuesday, will help create a better life for Chinese people overseas, Mai said.

"We have already seen improved livelihoods for people since China's reform and opening-up in the late 1970s," he said. "There will be increased business and a better living environment for overseas Chinese people as the country rides the tide of rapid economic development and extends its influence around the globe."

Also in the News

Nicole Kidman Recalls Oscar Glory: Loneliest Time
Showbiz2016/06/16 13:58January 23 2019 13:39:29

Nicole Kidman Recalls Oscar Glory: Loneliest Time

Attending Shanghai International Film Festival, Nicole Kidman talks about her role in "Grace of Monaco".

Labor Day Travel Peak Starts
Also in the News2014/05/01 12:16January 23 2019 13:39:29

Labor Day Travel Peak Starts

Johnny Depp Delivers a Speech 'Evolve the Future' in 'Transcendence'
Also in the News2014/04/18 13:18January 23 2019 13:39:29

Johnny Depp Delivers a Speech 'Evolve the Future' in 'Transcendence'

Hollywood star Johnny Depp's speech in the upcoming new film "Transcendence" has been disclosed on Friday, April 11th.

China World Business Sports Showbiz Audio
C4 My Chinese Life The Sound Stage China Revealed Showbiz Video Travel Video
China World Fun Travel Entertainment Sports
Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou
Live Music Opera & Classical Movies Traditional Shows Exhibitions
Learn Chinese:
Chinese Studio Living Chinese Everyday Chinese Just For Fun Chinese Culture Buzzwords