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Businessmen heading back home to Wenzhou

By Yu Ran in Wenzhou, Zhejiang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-24 07:20

Businessmen heading back home to Wenzhou
Wenzhou businessmen operating outside the city invested over 66.5 billion yuan in Wenzhou's development projects in 2012, with those overseas contributing over 2.43 billion yuan. [Photo / Provided to China Daily]

Businessmen heading back home to Wenzhou

China's hub of private industry sees the return of an increasing number of merchants to their hometown from overseas, many from Europe, reports Yu Ran in Wenzhou, Zhejiang.

Some people who left Wenzhou years ago are now coming back with capital and new ideas.

As the global economy remains sluggish, the government of Wenzhou has been trying to build platforms for overseas businessmen, and more and more native Wenzhou entrepreneurs are now eyeing their hometown for business opportunities.

The coastal city has been well known for its entrepreneurs over the past three decades.

Sixteen years ago, the then 41-year-old Chen Zhiyuan left his hometown - Wenzhou - for Dubai with nearly 1 million yuan ($160,000) in debt after suffering huge losses at his trading company.

"I chose to get out of the country at the nadir of my career. I was trying to prove that Wenzhou businessmen are not afraid to face difficulties," said Chen, who flew back to Wenzhou in 2011 after he made a fortune in Dubai.

Chen, the former president of the Wenzhou chamber of commerce in Dubai, was the founder of three major China-oriented markets selling all sorts of Chinese products there, with an annual sales revenue of over $1 billion.

"As a Chinese businessman, I had the advantage of getting products from factories directly in a shorter period of time than my competitors and with lower prices. I saw the great potential of the popular Chinese products," said Chen, who was a wholesaler of cheap Chinese products for the first three years.

He opened the first Chinatown mall in 2000 in Dubai, with hundreds of shops and run by Chinese merchants, mostly from Wenzhou. In the next decade, he launched two other small malls to unite Wenzhou businessmen because he believed that solidarity has always been a tradition of Wenzhou merchants.

After the recent financial crisis hit Europe and the United States, Chen realized that it could be the right time to return to his hometown with the money and experience and ready for new challenges.

"I've seen great changes in Wenzhou, which achieved booming economic development before 2010, which then slowed with the credit crisis in 2011, and I wanted to make a contribution to save the city," said Chen.

The second phase of the Zhannan Trade Mart was one of the projects where Chen invested in February. The total investment is valued at about 1.5 billion yuan ($242.84 million), and the project covers an area of 4.33 hectares with a construction area of 151,774 square meters.

"I want to bring the concept of high-end marketing to Wenzhou by introducing a variety of design items to the city from all over the world and building a global trading platform here," said Chen.

The project was launched in June and the first phase is expected to be finished by October. It already attracted 80 percent of the investment needed for its completion.

"I would like to put money into similar projects planned by the city government to reboot Wenzhou's economy as soon as possible," said Chen.

Chen added that he had returned for better opportunities, especially in the commercial property and financial sectors, which will be the major focus in the near future.

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