Take the train back home – Pakistani engineer creates trains in China
Closer cooperation on infrastructure, the economy and technology between China and partner nations has thrived since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.
Thanks to these deepening ties, more Chinese companies have expanded their operations overseas.
CGTN is sharing personal stories of three employees who work in Chinese companies that benefit from the BRI.
In the seventh episode of "The Faces”, Max from Pakistan shares his experience of working in China to produce the first metro train for his home country.
More than 4,000 kilometers away from his home country Pakistan, 28-year-old Max is hard at work manufacturing trains. Some of the subway trains he is helping with will be exported to countries along the Belt and Road countries.
Max is the first foreign graduate whom the CRRC (China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.) Zhuzhou Locomotive Company has hired. He got the job after graduating with a master's degree in electrical engineering from Xi'an Jiaotong University.
Max works in Zhuzhou, a prefecture-level city in the southern province of Hunan, where very few foreigners can be seen in the street. With his big eyes and bushy eyebrows, sometimes people even treat Max like a celebrity. Whether he is walking in the street, or eating his meal in a restaurant, locals are always keen to talk to him. And the affection grows even deeper when they learn he's from Pakistan.
"Batie," which literally means "Pakistan iron," is a popular term of endearment reserved for Pakistanis. Iron in China symbolizes a close bond or friendship. Max has already gotten used to his nickname and has become very fond of it.
“People here are so welcoming, but this made me feel that the language barrier was my only problem,” Max said. With very few of his countrymen working for the company or living in the city, and unable to fully converse in Chinese, Max felt somewhat isolated.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to learning languages. So every day, Max read and wrote Chinese characters onto paper a thousand times, all to become fluent.
His hard work has paid off. He now converses in Mandarin both at work and in his daily life. Two years ago he even attended a talk show event with his Chinese colleagues to "show off" his Mandarin.
But what makes him the most proud here is not improving his language skills, but playing a role in improving his country's transport infrastructure.
The first time Max took the subway in China will remain fresh in his memory. "I thought, 'Wow, this really is a very good means of transportation. It is convenient and fast, with no traffic jam, no headache.'" At the time, he didn't realize that one day he would be helping to make his country's first metro train.
During the year Max started to work for CRRC, a contract was signed between China and Pakistan to deliver the "Orange Line Metro Train" in Lahore. This project is a component of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a significant part of China's Belt and Road initiative. The Orange Line will be Pakistan's first modern rail-based mass rapid transit system.
"Thanks to the loan from the Belt and Road Initiative, and after lengthy negotiations, the project has been signed," Zhong Jinlin, deputy director of overseas marketing at CRRC, told CGTN. "It is the company's first China-Pakistan project to get signed under the Belt and Road Initiative. We have been facing very tight deadlines. But Max is particularly helpful and passionate even though sometimes he has had to work overtime."
"Of course, everyone will feel proud if you are doing something for your country, especially when you are abroad," Max said.
As an electrical engineer, Max brought his technical knowhow to the project, but as a Pakistani, he also acted as a "middle man." Familiar with the local transport operation, he could quickly coordinate between the two sides if there were any problems or queries. He also helped with translating instructions on the train.
And when the first trains were delivered, Max was there to help with handing them over to his compatriots. The brightly colored trains attracted thousands of people. “Every day, they will come and cover the train. They keep saying ‘Let me see, let me see the train,'" Max still remembers the jubilant crowd while the trial operation was being conducted on the rails. "They just can't wait to get into the train."
And they won't have to wait any longer as the Orange Line train is likely to go into official service starting July this year. And Max's contribution to this China-Pakistan project has not gone unnoticed. Zhong told us his company saw Max's hiring as a success, and “since then, we've hired more foreign employees like him."