Business / Economy

Dalian, a welcoming haven for expats

By JOSEPH CATANZARO/YANG ZIMAN/ZHANG XIAOMIN (China Daily) Updated: 2015-01-26 09:27

With tree-clad coast, an amenable city government and clean air, Dalian stands out from most cities in China 

On a factory floor in Dalian, Liaoning province, amid the cacophony of industry and the shouting of employees, Ladon Ghalili shows off the inner workings of the manufacturing operation she and her husband Foad have built over the past 25 years. Workers, some of whom have known her for more than a decade, greet her in the local dialect. She answers them in kind, fluently.

The Ghalilis, who came to China in 1989, not long after the nation began to open up, started their first business in Dalian using savings they'd scraped together. They now own and run several companies that collectively turn over about $20 million per year and employ around 100 people locally.

But while commercial opportunity was one of the main reasons the now 54-year-old United States citizen and her 57-year-old Iranian-born husband first came to the northeastern Chinese city as a young couple, she says it is not the reason they decided to stay.

Straddling a beautiful sweep of tree-lined coast in the nation's northeast, Dalian is unlike most cities in China.

The choking gray pall of industrial smog that blankets much of the country is an alien thing here and the hustle and bustle of the mega-metropolises further south is absent.

There is money to be made, but there is something more, too.

In China, where most foreigners come to make a quick buck or tick a box on a resume, the northeastern city is something different: It is the place where people from all over the world are making their home.

"Dalian is our home now," Ghalili says.

And it is no accident that this is the case for an increasing number of foreigners.

"This can be your home," says Liu Guozhi, the city's foreign trade division chief.

It is the message he wants hardworking, skilled foreigners to receive.

The official says concessions to make life and work more attractive and amenable to foreigners, a rare thing in China, are common in Dalian.

The city government regularly holds or supports events like music and fashion festivals and goes so far as to actively encourage expatriates to interact and become part of local Chinese celebrations like Spring Festival. There is even a regular forum where authorities meet with foreigners to hear their problems and receive feedback on what they can do to make the city a better place for expatriates to live.

"Our purpose is to make foreign experts happy to be here, to want to stay and be happy in their work and do it well," says Zhang Jichun, the director of the local government's Foreign Expert Bureau. "Most of them are very happy here. Many are interested in buying a house, or getting married to a local, or are already married to a local. But we want to solve their problems."

Liu says the local authorities are investigating whether it might be possible to offer something like a "green card" that would allow long-term expatriates to make Dalian their permanent place of residence without having to undergo the hassle of renewing their work visa every year.

He concedes there is a simple reason why Dalian is so welcoming to foreigners.

While expatriates account for only about 10,000 of the city's 7 million-plus population, their economic impact is significant.

Foreign investment

Since opening its first development zone in 1984, Dalian has played host to 17,000 foreign investment projects, 4,600 of which are currently still operational and employ some 460,000 people locally.

Previous Page 1 2 3 Next Page

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks