18年前，刚从大学毕业的阿兹兹带着1500美金和“买一辆车” “开一家外贸公司” 的梦想，跟几个朋友到义乌闯荡。
At the beginning, Aziz was constantly worried about getting lost when he went out. He only dared to leave his residence if he stayed within a 100-meter range during his early days in Yiwu. A friend gave him a note with his own address on it in case he got lost. He kept the note in his pocket at all times. Not knowing Chinese, Aziz could only communicate with people in English and body language. But after a year of hard study, he could approach business negotiations in Chinese.
Other than language and transportation, the most difficult problem was organizing three daily meals. In fact, Aziz was not able to find a halal restaurant, so he had to buy groceries and cook for himself.
Aziz's life in Yiwu has been constantly improving as his business has continued to grow. In 2005, he registered Yiwu Faxun Trading Company, and his business started to cover Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other places. His first dream was realized.
As his business grew, Aziz bought a small car three years later, finally realizing his second dream. He also moved his office to Futian Commercial District, where the popular Yiwu Market is.
Only with Yiwu's improvement can I improve
In August 2016, the launch of the Yiwu-Afghanistan railway greatly helped Yiwu and Afghanistan achieve closer economic cooperation.
After the opening of the Yiwu-Afghanistan railway, it took only two weeks for goods to reach Afghanistan by train, and the transport cost was significantly reduced. As a result, Aziz's trading company entered a period of rapid development.
According to Aziz, the establishment of the Belt and Road Initiative has brought unexpected changes to his trading company. At first, he only did export trade to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia. Now, he purchases 200 to 400 containers of goods every year and exports Yiwu's goods to eight countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
Over 18 years, Aziz's revenue increased from zero to 10,000 yuan ($2100) a day, and now stands at 100,000 yuan a day. He claims that his company's growth is directly connected to the growth of Yiwu. During these years, the city has also undergone earth-shaking changes, including drastic improvement in living conditions and the business environment. "I am growing up together with Yiwu. Without Yiwu, I wouldn't be where I am now. Only with Yiwu's improvement can I improve."
In 2017, Aziz contributed 50,000 yuan to the greening of the Dachen riverside — a project of the Five-Water Management scheme — and joined the local community in protecting its water resources and promoting related activities. In 2018, he purchased 100 blankets and sent them to nursing homes to help the elderly keep warm. In his daily life, Aziz also often acts as a mediator to help resolve trade disputes between foreign and local businesspeople.
In 2018, the Yiwu municipal government awarded Aziz the fourth Mall Friendship Award in recognition of his recent contributions to local development.
Continuing to chase dreams
Having lived in Yiwu for 18 years, Aziz has not only become a well-known, but also an authentic Yiwu resident. He brought his wife and three children to live with him in Yiwu.
Because of work, Aziz often travels all over the world. He has been to 25 countries, but every time he leaves, he misses Yiwu a lot. In Yiwu, he learned the entrepreneurial and business spirit of Yiwu's people and realized his dreams step by step.
Yiwu is still growing and developing, and Aziz will continue to chase his dreams. In September, Aziz registered a new company, planning to use the China Railway Express to import Afghan handmade carpets, dried fruit, saffron and other specialties to China. Through this venture, the Chinese can learn more about Afghan culture.
(Text and photo by Wu Yueyue, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Kendra Fiddler. Additional pictures provided by Aziz Ullah)