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Guiyang gives retiree a second career

( China Daily)

Updated: 2014-04-29

Lee Chao-hung, 73, never expected life after retirement would mean a new career-thousands of miles away from home.

Born and raised in Taiwan, Lee graduated from Taiwan's National Chung Hsing University with a major in animal nutrition. He went into animal husbandry after graduation and devoted his life to it.

Guiyang gives retiree a second career
Lee Chao-hung talks with visitors at one of his farms in Guizhou.

In 1998, at the age of 57, when everyone thought Lee could sit down and enjoy retirement, a trip to the mainland changed everything.

"I was invited to run some market research in Guiyang," Lee recalls. The city is capital of Guizhou province, which was considered to be one of the most poverty-stricken regions in China at the time.

"I have been to many mainland cities before, but I decided to stay in Guizhou the moment I arrived," he says, believing that the opportunity and great potential there would expand his business.

Guiyang gives retiree a second career
Lee (third from right)with his guests at one of his farms.

Lee has worked as a pig breeder in Taiwan since he graduated from college.

Guizhou, for him, is a wonderland for taking risks but he received little support from his family and friends for heading to a remote place that suffers such poverty.

Many of his friends told him that staying in a coastal area like Zhejiang or Fujian provinces would be a better choice with the advanced transportation and communications.

He was also told it's easier to travel between Taiwan and those provinces.

However, Lee was determined to go to Guizhou, as he believed the less-developed region could bring more opportunities.

Lee started his adventure by renting a barn in the suburbs of Guiyang to run a feed business, with an investment of 8 million yuan ($1.28 million), while exploring more business opportunities.

As an expert in animal husbandry, he found local farmers lacked skills in pig breeding, so he decided to run a company for local farmers.

However, it was hard in the beginning, Lee recalls.

"We had a very tough traffic environment in Guizhou at that time. My colleagues and I had to drive a pickup truck every day with tools such as hoes and shovels in case we became stuck in the mud," he says.

In the first few years, flying from Guiyang to Taiwan meant a lot of transfers, and Lee also struggled with the spicy food of Guizhou.

"Now I can't have dinner without chili," says Lee with a laugh.

Lee was lonely as he started his journey 17 years ago, but now his family has joined him.

Two of his sons and their wives now run the company with him. Three years ago, even the third generation moved from Taiwan to Guiyang.

"My grandson is 9 years old and he is studying here," says Lee, adding that his grandson is the only child from Taiwan in the primary school.

Lee, together with his 291 staff members, has seen annual sales revenue reach 110 million yuan. Under his guidance, their business also helps promote the development of pig farms in the area. Local farmers also benefit from raising pigs.

An employee from Lee's company surnamed Ding says Lee is chatty and amiable. "He barely has any weekend since he inspires many Taiwan investors to come to Guizhou, so he usually has to spend the weekends with them."

Employees from Taiwan have an extra eight days off every three months for them to reunite with their families in Taiwan.

Thanks to new air routes, traveling back home is no longer an issue as there are round-trip flights between Guiyang to Taipei every day.

There are now 31 Taiwan-funded agricultural enterprises in Guizhou, involving 14 categories such as planting and breeding, as well as agricultural sightseeing.

Now chairman of Guizhou Tainong Group and deputy chairman of Guizhou Association of Taiwan Businessmen, Lee says he has introduced more than 10 investors to Guizhou.

The region has a favorable climate and a vast area for agricultural development, while Taiwan does better in technology and management, he explains.

"The connection between Guizhou and Taiwan becomes closer every year. I'm glad I made the right choice," he says.

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