With economic growth rates exceeding 9% a year, more and more Australians are heading for China’s southwest to tap into a booming market of more than 200 million consumers—roughly equal to the population of Indonesia, but with more pandas.
Spurred on by easy access to tier two and three markets and direct flights from Australia to Chengdu, Chongqing and Kunming, Australian companies like ANZ, Lynch Flowers, Cochlear and Eastern Elevators are already making their presence felt.
We’ve profiled four up and coming young professionals who are riding the wave.
Edward van der Linden touched down in Chengdu in 2011 with no Mandarin and an eye for adventure. “My first teacher taught me Sichuan dialect, I couldn’t tell the difference”, he says. Jump forward to 2017 and his command of the Sichuan dialect has helped him launch a career. “I distribute beer for Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula Craft Brewery. Cultural understanding helps me get sales”. Edward’s distribution network extends to more than 70 venues, with sub-distributors in Chongqing and rural Sichuan. He plans to move into spirits and venue management. “Life as a young entrepreneur in China is hard but rewarding,” he says. ”There is nothing better than being my own boss”.
The Food Lover
Headhunter, venture capitalist and tech entrepreneur Jo Wang (pictured with her daughter) unexpectedly found her true calling in southwest China: coffee. Chengdu-born, Canberra-raised Jo opened her Grains n’ Beans store in 2016 to give discerning consumers in Chengdu’s new High-Tech Zone a taste of Aussie coffee culture. “I learned how to be a barista during my first part-time job, and it never left me”, she says. The Grain ‘n’ Beans bakery is also home to vegan-friendly butter and bread—a first for the city. “My daughter is very specific about what she can eat”, Jo says. “We realized no local bakeries catered to her needs, spotted the opportunity and here we are today”. Jo’s advice to young professionals is simple: “keep trying until you find something that works!”.
“The job I have today didn’t exist four years ago. That’s the story of young professionals in southwest China”, according to AustCham West China’s Executive Director Michael Feakes (pictured with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop). The Western Australian native arrived in Perth’s sister-city Chengdu in 2013 following two semesters of study in Dalian. “Chengdu has really come into its own as a place to live”, Michael says. “People work hard but they have a good work-life balance”. After honing his event management skills at Chengdu’s British Chamber of Commerce, Michael joined AustCham West China as its first full-time employee in February 2017. “There is so much potential for growth”, he says. “Our membership has doubled this year. I’m constantly taking queries from Australian companies who want to understand the market”. Michael advises professionals looking southwest to be creative: “opportunities come up every day. Find a job and become the person who does it”.
Hamer Scholar, and Australia China Youth Association – Chengdu Chapter President Jesse Glass found himself in Chengdu in 2014. A bartender for one year, a teacher for two, Jesse has maintained his Chinese language study as he explores opportunities in southwest China. This semester he is studying at Sichuan University as a Victorian Government Hamer Scholar. Drawing on his Victorian roots, Jesse co-founded the Australian Rules Football Australian Movement education startup in 2017, which has run sports events and developed summer camps for children. Jesse is excited to continue developing relationships between Australia and southwest China following the completion of his study. “It’s an incredibly exciting time here. The local interest in Australian education is stronger than ever and it’s an area that Australian Movement will continue to work on in the coming years”.
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