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Exclusive Interview: Liu Xiaoda, General Representative of CMEC in the Maldives and Builder of the Silk Road at the Paradise on Earth

Release time:2019-08-20 Article source:AP-FOCUS Reading times: A+AA-
Zhang Minjue and Pan Zurong of AP-FOCUS reported from Male: If I could go back in time, I would make the decision to stay at the Maldives, to work for China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC), to help expand the company’s overseas market and to make contributions to the joint efforts made by China and the Maldives on building the Belt and Road. During the interview held at a construction site in the Maldives a few days ago, Liu Xiaoda, General Representative of CMEC in the Maldives told the reporters of those chaste words without fancy rhetoric from the bottom of his heart.
I. Workers have to bear the toil and withstand the “loneliness”.
Many people may picture the experience of working in the Maldives, the paradise on Earth, as comfortable and romantic. However, any foreigner who has been working here on a permanent position will tell you from their first-hand experience that the Maldives is “heaven” for visitors and “hell” for workers. On sunny days, workers are covered in sand; while on rainy days, they are soaked in mud. That is the true fact of working on construction sites in the Maldives. Each time when transporters pass by, the powdery sand brought up by the wheels puts a thin layer on the exposed skin, turning their face and body into grey-white as if they have been covered by flour. So just imagine how it feels like in the mouth if they have to speak at such moments.
When introducing the working and living conditions in the Maldives, Liu Xiaoda indicated that the Maldives is a country where all goods are imported except for marine fish. Many things that we seem to take for granted in everyday life are precious here. Construction of engineering projects is usually repetitive and dull. For those who work on projects for several months or even years, apart from the toil, they must withstand the life of boredom and loneliness. Therefore, working in the Maldives requires the spirit of hardworking and the attitude of optimism. With such spirit and attitude, CMEC has been developing its projects in the Maldives from nothing to existence, and from existence to excellence. These projects cement CMEC’s position in the market and strengthen its local influence, thus making positive contributions to the traditional friendship between China and the Maldives.
In the opinion of his colleagues, Liu Xiaoda always thinks for the interest of the team, but keeps a low profile. Entering the site of Housing Project Department No. 1530 of CMEC in the Maldives, the open space in front of the gate has been converted to a small basketball court, where the staff can relax and have fun. And there is a small fitness room, about 25 square meters, under the staff dorms along with some recreational facilities, providing the staff with necessary cultural and recreational spaces in order to relieve their severe pressure from work.
“Working in the Maldives, we must face great work pressure, high work intensity and boring spare time, so I was assigned by CMEC the responsibility and mission to reduce stress for the staff, create favorable working environment and make families of our staff feel reassured. If I can cope with these potential disturbances in advance, the team will be able to concentrate on the projects on the front line during the progress of implementation,” said Liu Xiaoda.
II. Every employee is a “family member”.
Studying overseas broadened Liu’s horizon and expanded his thinking, while when making decision to work abroad, Liu Xiaoda made up his mind to endure hardship.
“The first two years in the Maldives was exactly the period when my family needed me the most because my child was newly born. However, my job required me to fly to Cuba, Iran, etc. As is often the case, I left for work before my child got up, and when I got home, the baby had already gone to bed.” When talking about his family, Liu expressed his loneliness and homesickness, instead of his usual calmness and easiness at work.
When you miss someone, it is rarely an intentional action. Rather, it could take place when you watch a movie, listen to the music, look at photos or as simple as when you close your eyes. He missed his family so much that at the early stage of the housing project of CMEC phase-III in the Maldives, Liu chose a permanent position and hoped to bring his wife and child here to live with him. However, due to the increase of amount, pressure and difficulty of work as well as the particularities of living in the Maldives, he decided to send them back to China so that the kid could enjoy a better educational and living environment. As a result, he had to work overseas all by himself.
In Liu’s office, on the wooden desk are several documents for him to deal with; and beside the laptop is his family photo. Everything seems common and ordinary except for one thing.
It is a neck massager which has been his good companion for several years. Ever since he started working, sitting at desk all day long has made him suffer from severe cervical spondylosis and lumbar disc herniation. When his neck and back pain as well as soreness in the waist are really unbearable, he will take out the neck massager to ease it for a while, and it is more common for him to bite his lips at work.
Since Liu works on the site himself, he understands from first-hand experience that working overseas is full of difficulties and takes care of every worker of the project. Because of the limited medical conditions in the Maldives, when the employees were infected with dengue fever by mosquito bites, Liu would send them to Sri Lanka for treatment as soon as possible; moreover, he arranges regular physical examinations for first-line employees for fear that they might be unaccustomed to the climate of a new place.
“Every employee on the project is a ‘family member’ for me in another sense. We chose the same path to devote ourselves to the development of overseas business. Most of us owe our families big time, while our families keep worrying about us. As head of the project, I have the obligation and responsibility to take care of every member of the team.”
III. The local people are amazed by the China “speed” and “quality”.
In fact, due to the special nature of the geological conditions in the Maldives, housing projects here are inherently challenging. The scorching sun and heavy rainfall do not seem to have much impact on holidaymakers, but for the builders, each time the weather changes, it directly affects the construction progress of the project.
Zhao Changpeng, deputy chief engineer of the housing project of CMEC phase-III in the Maldives told the reporters that, “all of us work at high temperature about 40 degrees every day in direct sunlight. Tolerating mosquito bites and dengue virus attacks is only physical and easier to endure. However, during the rainy season, we not only have to withstand the pain of mosquito bites and tropical viruses, but also to worry that water trapped in the base pit might delay the progress of projects. That is because that after the base pit is excavated, if the water is not drained in time, the strength of the bearing stratum in the base pit will be damaged and collapse will be likely to occur, which will seriously slow down the construction progress.”
For many Chinese enterprises overseas, they are not only faced with opportunities but also fierce competition with many multinational companies. However, unlike construction companies from other countries on the islands, “China speed” and “China quality” amaze the local people, especially the CMEC Maldives housing project, which is the first one that has no Chinese living in but is affectionately nicknamed as “China Town”.
“Although the conditions here are not as good as other countries, we often meet Chinese tourists at the airport. When they learned about that many infrastructures here, especially when they went to Hulu Male Island to see that many residential buildings were built by our company, they were surprised at the overseas development of Chinese enterprises. As an employee of a Chinese-funded enterprise and a member of the Communist Party of China, I feel fulfilled and proud to create economic benefits for the enterprise and win glory for the motherland, contributing to the development of both countries. This feeling is beyond description,” Liu Xiaoda revealed his delight to the reporters.
IV. The successful overseas expansion of enterprises is supported by contributions of innumerable hardworking builders.
With “speed” and “quality”, Chinese enterprises are striding overseas. This successful expansion is supported by innumerable hardworking builders who are working abroad and chasing their dreams in their own way. Far away from home, builders of CMEC are using this piece of ocean as paper and their sweat as ink to draw this magnificent picture of “Housing Dream” for a large amount of residential buildings.
Speaking of the Belt and Road Initiative, Liu Xiaoda stated that, “the Initiative has brought greater momentum and more opportunities for Chinese enterprises to open up overseas markets, and has created critical moments of development for countries along the Road and Belt when cooperating with China. Joint construction of the Initiative by China and the Maldives injects new impetus into the development of the latter, brings new room for development, and provides an unlimited platform for overseas builders to expand their international markets and demonstrate their talents.”
CMEC is among the first Chinese enterprises that entered the Maldivian market. In recent years, it has been awarded contracts to undertake a number of engineering projects. In particular, its housing projects have been highly appraised by the local government for the speed and quality of construction and have won widespread commendation from the public.