You are currently viewing Changing the Dragon’s image

Changing the Dragon’s image

WITH about 600 companies – both private and state-owned – operating in Zambia, China has become one of the country’s most significant investors.
The Asian giant’s investment in Zambia is set to hit US$3 billion in a few years, according to

China’s Ambassador to Zambia, Yang Youming.
Chinese companies have invested heavily in mining and other sectors over the last 10 years with investment reaching US$2.6 billion back in 2014.
The population of Chinese nationals in Zambia is also steadily rising. Currently, there are about 30,000 Chinese working in Zambia.
Zambia’s relations with China is historical, dating to the 1960s, and immortalised in the Tazara Railway Line, which the Chinese government built in the 1970s, to link Zambia with Tanzania, and to serve as a gateway to the sea.

But this long-standing friendship has not been without fault lines, breeding mistrust between the Chinese investors and Zambians.
The result of this mistrust in some cases, has been devastating for both sides, and has generally influenced the perception by many Zambians of the Chinese as people only interested in reaping the country’s natural resources for their own benefit.
But one man is trying to change that image of the Chinese people, presenting a kinder side of the ‘dragon’.
Meet Zou Ling, a self-made tycoon and philanthropist, who is keen to present a different view of China in Zambia. Mr Zou is a real gentleman with a genial face and warm smile.
“It is not just about making money here,” he tells me. “We want to do more for society and for the future development of this country.”
Mr Zou is the chairman of ZhongRun Investment Group Company Limited, as well as the founder and honourable chairman of the Zambia Chinese Association and its sister organisation, the Zambia Environmental and Cultural Protection Orgnisation.
In 2007, Mr Zou arrived in Zambia for the first time, attracted, he says, by the warm relations between the two countries.
And he immediately fell in love with the country – the blue sky, the trees, the air, and friendly people.
Plus, he thinks Zambian women are beautiful.
“Zambian women are very beautiful, they have bright eyes,” says Mr Zou.
He later founded the two organisations, with the purpose of promoting good business practice, cultural exchange and protecting the environment.
Mr Zou thinks China now has a better image than when he first arrived here 10 years ago.
Ever since China embarked on reforms to open up to the world in the 70s – the famous Open Door Policy – it has been on a huge public relations campaign to change how it is perceived internationally.
And Mr Zou wants to be a model for other Chinese investors in Zambia.
He thinks the Chinese people, themselves, created the negative image among Zambians.
Mr Zou does not deny some Chinese investors in Zambia have been engaged in illegal deals or bad practices.
“I cannot guarantee that all the Chinese investors are behaving like us, but we try to influence them,” he says.
But he also blames the media for much of the negative image painted about Chinese investors.
“I think that generally, Chinese people are doing good things in society, but you know some people do bad things and the media try to exaggerate it and make it big; that is why it has created this bad image of the Chinese people here,” he says.
Mr Zou wants all the Chinese companies operating in Zambia to abide by the laws, and to build trust among the Zambians.
“I believe that we should behave ourselves and build ourselves in such a way that in the next 30 or even 100 years, people will still consider us as good people who contributed to society,” he says.
Mr Zou has relocated back to China but regularly visits Zambia.
And whenever he does, he visits various orphanages, donating money, food, books, clothes and blankets.
Mr Zou, himself, knows how it feels to be poor. He was born into a poor family in China.
He says he made it in life because of the support he received from other people.
“I got support from others, that is why now I feel it is time for me to pay back by helping others,” he says.
And that is what drives him to help the poor.
“When I visit the local communities and I look at the poor people, it brings back memories of myself when I was little, and I feel obligated to help,” says Mr Zou.
“They are poor today, but tomorrow, they will be successful like me, or even more,” he says.
And although he is now an accomplished entrepreneur, Mr Zou lives a simple life.
“I don’t want to live an extravagant life,” he says.
When it comes to the environment, Mr Zou is a real tree-hugger, who has a certain reverence for trees.
“Trees are our best friend and we should utilise them in a better way. Trees are like us, they have life,” he says.
Mr Zou strongly believes Zambians should not use trees to make charcoal.
“It is such a waste,” he says.
Every year, the association he founded, Zambia Environmental and Cultural Protection Organisation, donates young trees to schools for planting.
Last year, the association donated about 2,000 trees for planting.
Mr Zou has also planted trees with children from orphanages in order, he says, to make children appreciate trees.
“We want to make people aware that planting trees is important,” he says.
“We don’t want Zambia to suffer the same problem that China is suffering with the smog,” he said.
Beijing in China is usually covered with smog, especially in winter, caused by industrial pollution and fumes from automobiles.
“That is why I think our first priority should be to preserve the environment and we have to utilise our resources in a way that thinks about the future generations,” says Mr Zou.
“If we destroy the environment, it is very difficult to bring it back,” he says.
Mr Zou believes by doing his charitable work and protecting the environment, he gains more hospitality and loyalty from Zambians.
“We want the local people to realise how much we love this country and how much we contribute to society,” says Mr Zou.
And Julia Tian, who is secretary general of the association, says Chinese companies must embrace social corporate responsibility.
“It is very important nowadays than ever for Chinese companies in Zambia to demonstrate what is known as corporate social responsibilities, because the local communities are becoming more attuned to the ethics the companies they patronise have to adhere to,” she says.