China’s Belt and Road Initiative is stimulating trade and investment in over 60 countries. The increased connectivity will create countless opportunities for young entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia and beyond who are able to make the most of the unique chances that the initiative brings.
Here is the story of one young person hoping to do just that.
XI’AN, April 20 (Xinhua) — Three months away from graduation, Nontipa Kla-ngam sees a golden opportunity as she wraps up her master’s thesis on the free trade agreement (FTA) between Thailand and China.
“We are very proud of our rice and I wish more Chinese could try it,” Nontipa said.
Agricultural products have been exempted duty by the FTA, but most Thai rice sold in China’s supermarkets is imported through regular channels, without taking advantage of the FTA, she said.
This means at least a 20-percent price margin, which leaves great market potential, she added.
Nontipa Kla-ngam was born on Phuket Island and began learning Chinese at high school in Bangkok. In 2014, she decided to further her studies at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling, Shaanxi Province.
“As the major initiator of the Belt and Road Initiative and ASEAN cooperation, China, in my eyes, should be a land of opportunity. That’s why I came to study here,” she said.
Thousands of years ago Yangling was the cradle of Chinese agriculture and has been home to a hi-tech agricultural industrial demonstration zone since 1997. Much of China’s agricultural technology, crop varieties and agricultural management modes have been born there.
On April 1, the China Shaanxi FTZ was announced. Nontipa immediately checked out the policies on agricultural imports.
“I am about to publish a paper on Thai rice, so I believe I will be good at procurement. I’m familiar with Chinese culture and policies, and I speak fluent Chinese, which gives me many advantages,” she said.
“I want to start here because I already know Yangling,” she said. “Even if I fail, I still have friends and teachers here who take me in and listen to my tales of woe.”
In November, the university launched a Silk Road agriculture education and innovation alliance with 59 other universities and research institutions from 12 Belt and Road countries. Nearly 200 students from Belt and Road countries attend the university, accounting for nearly 90 percent overseas students.
Many overseas students, like Nontipa Kla-ngam, choose to stay in China upon graduation, hoping to accumulate more field experience and make a bigger contribution when they go back, Zheng said.
“I want a career in China. Ultimately I will go back to Thailand, but I hope I will be 50 then,” Nontipa said.