Life

Mongolia is amazing

“I feel cheated.” This was the first thought that came to Wanzhi from southern China when he landed in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, for the first time.

This was about 15 years ago, a day in the summer of 2009. After boarding an international flight from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, which only runs two to three times a week, Wanzhi did not expect that his future career and life would be so deeply bound to this steppe country that he was completely unfamiliar with at the time. .

Wanzhi’s first trip to Mongolia was with the original intention of a commercial investigation. Before that, he was selling computer accessories and network electronics products in a computer town in Shanghai. He had been doing his business safely until a Mongolian college student came to the store and struck up a conversation. The trajectory of life has changed.

First visit to Ulaanbaatar

This Mongolian college student who came to Shanghai in the name of studying abroad went to Lieutenant Bo’s store with the original intention of buying a certain batch of electronic equipment from here and then sending it to Ulaanbaatar to earn the price difference. After a conversation with Wanzhi, who happened to be in the store, the latter was attracted by the Mongolia mentioned by college students: this mysterious northern neighbor is charming, and its bright development scene is waiting for Chinese tourists who don’t know yet to see it. Ichiban.

Wanzhi’s curiosity about Mongolia was aroused by a foreign college student who suddenly visited.

Being engaged in information engineering related industries, he naturally searched online first – but at that time, on the domestic Internet, there was very little valuable information truly disclosed about such a pastoral country sandwiched between China and Russia. There are only a few sporadic posts that mainly talk about the negative aspects of Mongolia. It seems that the focus of everyone’s attention has never been on this neighbor.

“For me at the time, Mongolia was so mysterious. Since no one knew about this place, I became even more interested, and my desire to set out became stronger and stronger. I thought I would go there to have a look and play. It doesn’t matter if you play.” Wanzhi, who said he has a desire for exploration, became more and more eager to reveal the secrets of Mongolia at the invitation of the college student he had just met, and he couldn’t wait to start preparations for departure.

The college student’s father was a policeman in Mongolia. He opened a local company through relatives and friends, and soon sent an invitation letter for a business inspection to the Mongolian Embassy in Beijing, targeting Wanzhi. Feeling the sincerity of the other party, Wanzhi rushed to Beijing and found an agent, and the visa application process became smoother.

You should know that in the past ten years alone, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Embassy in Mongolia have issued reminders to Chinese citizens who plan to work in Mongolia more than once, saying that they have repeatedly received reports from Chinese compatriots working in Mongolia that they have encountered problems there. Various difficulties include failure to apply for work visas and work and residence documents for migrant workers in Mongolia in accordance with the law, being insulted and beaten by contractors, etc.

But for Wanzhi at that time, he went there for the purpose of business inspection and entertainment. Under the kind words of the Mongolian college students, he did not regard the “pits” that these compatriots had stepped on as risks that must be guarded against and be more vigilant. . This also paved the way for his subsequent investment setbacks in Mongolia.

With a business (B) visa that allows you to travel to Mongolia, you can stay in Mongolia for a full 30 days. Wanzhi chose the specific time for his first trip to Ulaanbaatar in July of that year. This is due to Lieutenant Bo’s consideration of visiting the “Nadam” Conference in Mongolia – a grand competition festival with the theme of the traditional sports of the grassland nomads, usually held in mid-July every year – and because he wants to avoid the temperate continent. Mongolia has a cold and long winter with a unique climate. Taking advantage of the relatively good weather conditions in the middle of the year, we plan to more fully investigate the local business formats.

Saying goodbye to Beijing’s airport, the plane took off until it landed in the capital of another country, a journey of about 1,200 kilometers. During this nearly three-hour journey, Wanzhi’s heart was “full of passion for exploration.”

However, the excitement gradually faded as Wanzhi walked out of the old Genghis Khan International Airport.

The Mongolian capital that caught his eye was completely different from the beautiful and grand scene described by the other party before: the buildings in Ulaanbaatar only had five or six floors at the highest, and there were no buildings with more than ten floors in sight; many buildings were in sight. Judging from the style, it was built during the Soviet period and is “very dilapidated”; from the airport to the city of Ulaanbaatar, the dozens of kilometers of road are covered with mud and potholes – it is a simple road, and it is only two-way and two-lane. .

From a macro perspective, Mongolia’s infrastructure, including roads, energy and electricity, is not very complete. The roads are mainly gravel roads and natural roads, and only a small part are asphalt roads.

In the world’s second largest landlocked country, the population density is not high and the distribution is extremely uneven. Nearly half of the residents are concentrated in the capital. When Lieutenant Bo just got off the plane, he saw that there were quite a lot of people in Ulaanbaatar, walking along the street. There are only a few shops for buying and selling, the commerce industry is not prosperous, and “there is very little modern atmosphere.”

From Shanghai to Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, the gap is obvious. Wanzhi said that at that time, he “felt like he had arrived in Africa.” He hesitated to spend real money to invest in “such a poor and backward place”.

After staying for a month, Lieutenant Bo returned without success and said goodbye to the Mongolian Plateau, but his connection with the Mobei land was not interrupted. Realizing that the college student wanted to use exaggerated descriptions to attract his investment, Wanzhi did not break off the relationship with the other party; on the contrary, the latter’s continuous invitations to cooperate made him have the idea that he was too kind to refuse.

Stop loss and “eat money”

One year later, in July 2010, Wanzhi came to Ulaanbaatar again with a friend who also had the desire to investigate.

This time, he was determined to put his investment into action.

Considering that the college student’s family has a police background, the two parties plan to cooperate to open a security company if local policies allow it.

Being in a foreign country where the situation was unknown, Wanzhi did not dare to invest too much. The initial cost of several hundred thousand yuan was transferred and the company was officially operational.

First, the relevant cooperation contracts and other documents were signed. All the documents were drafted in Mongolian by the partners. The Chinese version that was handed over to Wanzhi was translated by him using a local translator – and the translator used by the company , the Mongolian college student with whom he became acquainted in China.

In retrospect, Wanzhi woke up from his ignorance and realized that he, who knew nothing about the local legal provisions in Ulaanbaatar, partnered with a local father and son to do business without understanding the language or writing. In business, it is easy to be deceived. “From beginning to end, I had no idea what was written in the documents and contracts that I signed in a daze. I felt like people were trying to lie to me, and I had no idea what to do.”

Then there are the human and material cost expenditures. From equipment shipped in China, to clothes and cars, to special equipment such as batons, handcuffs and even guns, all the purchase funds flowed out of Wanzhi’s pocket. Having shouldered most of the initial investment, it stands to reason that if you make money, you should have shares – but what surprised him was that in this security company that could be considered a multinational cooperation, he was not a shareholder.

Wanzhi, who realized something was wrong, took out the hastily signed cooperation contract and found that apart from stating basic matters such as the cooperation period, there were no investment-related guarantee clauses or loss liability instructions, let alone his own Shareholder identity authentication. He went to ask his partner, but the other party put him off by saying that “it’s not convenient for foreigners to join a Mongolian company.”

The company was open for business. Seeing that the work was done, Lieutenant Bo could only bite the bullet and continue to invest funds to support its daily operations. The number of employees in the company is increasing day by day, from finance to managers, to management positions in various departments. Partners have gradually arranged relatives and friends with whom they have good relationships to take up positions. Wanzhi must pay these people’s monthly wages on time.

The burden of expenditure is getting heavier and heavier, and the day when the company will make a profit is always far away.

When we first discussed cooperation, the other party acted like a local policeman to Wanzhi, saying that he had the power and could take over the security services of many enterprises and construction sites. The promise of “painting cakes” was so good, but Wanzhi was very disappointed. He quickly discovered that his partner was not a leader who held an important position in the police station at all, and he did not want to cooperate with him to run the company well. After he recommended himself to the outside world for security services two or three times and was rejected, he There was no action again.

The entire year was wasted in Wanzhi’s hopeless wait for the company to turn a profit. By the time he finally lost confidence in the unreliable police and college student father and son, and shut down the “free money” security company, it was already 2011.

Return to the old business

After so many years of wandering in Mongolia, Wanzhi gradually gained knowledge and experience and found that his experience was similar to that of many Chinese people who later went to Mongolia – they were all based on knowing a “strong and background” person in Mongolia. “The Big Boss” is the beginning and unfolds.

A background that cannot be ignored is that as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative has received more and more responses in Northeast Asia, many Chinese small and medium-sized private enterprises investing in Mongolia are not well prepared for the relevant theories of overseas investment.

A lot of specific information about investment projects was only obtained through introductions from acquaintances. The preliminary feasibility study of the project was not done well. There was a lack of analysis and evaluation of the development of the industries involved and the relevant laws and policies of Mongolia. Moreover, due to Due to insufficient understanding of the reasons, there is often a phenomenon of following the trend and over-investing (such as following the herd and betting on the mining industry). As a result, it is not uncommon for Chinese-funded enterprises to blindly invest in Mongolia and suffer losses.

He had stepped on all the pitfalls that others had stepped on, but Wanzhi did not just go back home – before he left for Ulaanbaatar, his relatives and friends in Shanghai knew that he wanted to enter Mongolia’s foreign trade world. “It’s only been two and a half years, and it’s quite shameful for me to go back in despair.”

In addition to face, what prompted Wanzhi to persevere in Outer Mongolia was his firm judgment on local business opportunities.

In the first decade of the 21st century, Wanzhi, who saw Mongolia’s relatively backward state, believed that various industries that were starting to develop, including the resource-rich mineral industry, would have greater development opportunities in the future. “Maybe it will be three to five years, maybe it will be ten years, I don’t know, but there must be a prospect.”

Sitting in a rented house in Ulaanbaatar, Wanzhi thought about it over and over again, and he still felt that his way out in Mongolia was to return to his old profession, which was related to network security equipment engineering.

He said that this was the biggest lesson he learned from his first experience – “When doing business in a foreign country where you are unfamiliar with your life, you must choose a field that you have deep experience in. In this way, even if the legal and humanistic environment are not The same, at least the pitfalls and experiences you have experienced are the same. If you are in the same industry and have something in common, you will have a greater chance of success. ”

Everything had to start from scratch. Lieutenant Bo, who had no connections or resources in Ulaanbaatar, could only rely on his past industry experience and knowledge accumulated in China to start from the most basic equipment sales. Not knowing Mongolian, he didn’t even know where to find market stakeholders. Lieutenant Bo had no choice but to find a translation company and ask for guidance and guidance, slowly exploring and learning.

“In the first two to three years, when I was in the early stages of exploration, I lost money.”

Develop blue ocean market

In the second half of 2010, in the capital of modern Mongolia, which has frequent exchanges with Western countries, there were not very many residents learning Chinese.

After suffering a huge loss caused by the language barrier, Wanzhi set himself a goal of learning Mongolian. After asking a teacher to teach him the basic pinyin pronunciation, he spent three months studying Mongolian by himself every day seriously, and he also learned Mongolian in work and life. Ask the locals for advice and learn simple expressions for daily communication.

Based on his personal experience, Lieutenant Bo found that most of the Chinese entrepreneurs who are developing their businesses in Mongolia relatively smoothly today are proficient in Mongolian to a certain extent. “For those of us who need to do business frequently, if we don’t understand the language, we will hit a wall everywhere and act like a fool. Foreigners think differently from us, and they may not realize what they want to express through a translator. There is no way to communicate with the other party using words, so it is inevitable to fall into the trap of being deceived.”

Once you’ve mastered the skills to communicate with locals on a daily basis, all that’s left is to put them into action.

The goods are shipped uniformly from Guangzhou and Shenzhen, transported by rail, declared at the border port, and then transported to Ulaanbaatar through transfer. The whole process only takes more than ten days. Compared with the local mainstream Russian equipment, the new equipment and systems introduced by Wanzhi from China have better performance. However, most companies in the industry in Ulaanbaatar have never been exposed to it – this is a real problem. Uncompromising blue ocean market.

But the aroma of wine is also afraid of deep alleys. In order to open up sales in the local market, Lieutenant Bo started with the most primitive door-to-door sales after inspecting the equipment shipped to Mongolia. He also tried to advertise in newspapers and use the equipment in Uzbekistan to Lambato’s newly emerging Internet marketing is to expand the popularity of his products as much as possible.

The customer’s understanding of the new equipment was completely blank. He could only visit one house after another, show the introduction and then try it out step by step. “The most important thing is to demonstrate the effect of the equipment. If customers notice the difference, they can slowly establish cooperation.”

Thanks to the obvious information gap and geographical gap, Lieutenant Bo finally reaped profits from his network engineering business in Ulaanbaatar after surviving several years of accumulation during the development period. After many years of development, his career has made a leap from product sales to project contracting. The company has grown from a rental house where he first settled down to a mansion of about 500 square meters with a yard.

Fast forward 15 years, Lieutenant Bo, who has started his own family in Ulaanbaatar, has seen the economic changes in the Mongolian capital: on the streets of Ulaanbaatar, where it was once difficult to find a Chinese translator, he and More and more compatriots are passing by; in the shops that were once deserted, now there is an abundant supply of all kinds of goods from Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States, and everything is becoming more and more.

Everything is rising, prices have doubled several times, and labor costs continue to rise – in 2010, he paid company employees a monthly salary of about 500 yuan. In the past 15 years, this number has increased tenfold; house prices and Land prices are also fluctuating at an astonishing speed. The land price of his 500-square-meter self-built house was only 300,000 yuan back then, “and now it is estimated to be more than 1 million yuan.”

During the COVID-19 epidemic, due to the interruption of domestic logistics, Lieutenant Bo’s network engineering company did not open for three years. Fortunately, the company has its own properties. Compared with other local Chinese-funded enterprises that still need to pay rent, it “has a stronger ability to resist risks.” “.

In the post-epidemic era when people and materials have resumed circulation, Wanzhi said that after all these years, he is still optimistic about Mongolia’s development momentum. “There are a lot of business opportunities waiting to be tapped in many industries. Compared with China, it is not so ‘volumey’ here and it is still ‘new’.”

Today’s Ulaanbaatar, surrounding Genghis Khan Square in the central area, is dotted with various modern skyscrapers and vintage Soviet-style buildings. It has gradually said goodbye to the “African” scene that Lieutenant Bo witnessed when he first came here. . This resource-rich landlocked country is becoming rich at a speed visible to the naked eye.

Driven by the mining industry, Mongolia has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, attracting strong investment interest from foreign capital. 14 pairs of ports are lined up along the borderline of more than 4,700 kilometers between the two countries. Over the past ten years, China has become Mongolia’s largest trading partner and investor.

In 2014, Mongolia proposed the “Steppe Road” initiative, which includes the construction of highways and electrical lines connecting China and Russia, and the expansion of cross-border railways, natural gas pipelines, and oil pipelines.

For the prairie country that is on the fast track of development, a clear strategic goal emerges: by implementing the “Prairie Road” initiative, it will take advantage of its geographical location between major countries and revitalize it through cross-border transportation and trade. Economy, which is also highly consistent with the promotion of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative in Northeast Asia.

From another perspective, it is precisely because as a landlocked country, Mongolia has only two neighboring countries, China and Russia. This unique geographical location determines its convenience in developing economic and trade relations with these two major countries in the region.

In other words, actively participating in the “Belt and Road” construction process and seizing the opportunities that come with the development of China’s export-oriented economy have become important ways for Mongolia to cultivate a competitive modern industrial system.

However, Mongolia is not satisfied with serving as a transit channel. It wants to make full use of the seaports that can be used for its own purposes.

On November 9, 2023, at the Tianjin Port, which has operated China-Mongolia freight train services for more than 30 years, a freight train loaded with food, daily necessities, machinery parts and other goods departed for Mongolia – this is the The 600th China-Mongolia freight train shipped to Tianjin this year also marks that China-Mongolia economic and trade cooperation is entering deeper cooperation waters.

Tianjin Port is the closest seaport to Mongolia. For Mongolia, which has no outlet to the sea, this is one of the most important import and export sea lanes in the process of regional economic integration development. Until recent years, about 90% of Mongolia’s transit goods transported by rail were transshipped through Tianjin Port.

Starting from the eastern starting point of the “China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor”, with the help of Tianjin Port’s extensive external connections, goods shipped to Mongolia and overseas countries can arrive safely and efficiently.

From Zamyn-Uud in Mongolia to Tianjin, to Incheon in South Korea and Osaka in Japan, the prosperous “sea-rail combined transport” transit transportation business brings truckloads of mineral products, handicrafts, food, cars and other daily necessities to more people. People visiting multiple destinations highlight the important role of Tianjin Port as a “bridgehead” in accelerating Mongolia’s integration into the connected regional economies.

In January this year, definite news came from the Mongolian government: relying on the regional logistics center in Zamyn-Uud City, East Gobi Province, Mongolia, including the Zamyn-Uud International Dry Port, the country plans to build eight new railway ports dry port to expand trade with neighboring countries. The construction of external transportation pipelines is booming day by day, and more Chinese businessmen like Lieutenant Bo will cross the border and head north, using their own stories of struggle to join the new trend of Sino-Mongolian economic and trade cooperation.

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