Business / Economy

The open arms of Liuzhou

By Wang Chao and Huo Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-22 14:54

 The open arms of Liuzhou

Christine O'Sullivan, who supervises engine plants for SGMW, says Liuzhou treats her like a family member. [Photo / China Daily]

Expatriates find warmth and joy in a consistently welcoming city

In 2002, Christine O'Sullivan came to Shanghai for her first trip to China on a business trip for General Motors and "fell in love" with the country.

Four years later, GM stationed the senior director of its engine manufacturing department for SAIC GM Wuling Automobile Co in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, to help establish an engine plant. Though Liuzhou, a city of no more than 200 expats, is the first Chinese city that the Toronto-born Canadian has ever lived in for a long period of time in the Middle Kingdom, she says she couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity.

And it's obvious that Liuzhou residents love O'Sullivan. In 2010, the central government awarded her the Friendship Award, the highest honor for expats in China. She also volunteers to teach English to a group of Chinese children and is the godmother of a 3-year-old Liuzhou girl. She said the city of approximately 3.8 million has welcomed her with open arms and treats her like a family member.

When O'Sullivan came here six years ago - after first working in GM's office in Canada, then New York City and Detroit - nobody knew about automobile engines. In establishing GM's engine plant, she brought over many of its technologies and standards to Liuzhou. As she began training the local people to work in the factory, she says they caught on fast, even to the point of feeding her with new ideas about efficiency and other improvements.

At the engine plant, in between the huge roaring machines assembling parts together, it is not easy to spot workers. O'Sullivan says it is one of the most-automated lines in the world. With machines performing the most routine of jobs, O'Sullivan directs the engineers and workers to solve problems along the automated lines. She walks briskly around the factory, auditing and checking for quality.

Currently O'Sullivan supervises two engine plants for SGMW, one in Liuzhou and another in Qingdao, Shandong province. She will lead another plant in Chongqing next year.

The engine plant in Liuzhou produces 14 models of engines, a leap from just one model back in 2006. The plant also exports engines to Egypt. Next year, it will ship engines to India.

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