Written by (作者): Jojo Chen?陈姣姣
Photos by (图片来源):?Nikola Zhang 张镱迈,?Ashley Wu 吴锦飞
A year and a half ago, the 4th China-CEEC Economic & Trade Forum was held in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. In attendance at the forum were over 1,500 government officials and business executives from China and the 16 Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs). One of the representatives at the forum was Nikola Zhang, a Chinese from Qingtian County of Zhejiang Province who had, at that time, lived in Serbia for 11 years engaging in trade, catering, travel, and football brokerage. We were able to meet with Zhang at the Ningbo Imported Commodities Exhibition Trade Center, where we sat down with him to speak about his new business in the city.
During the forum’s opening ceremony, Chinese Premier Keqiang Li sad that because global economic recovery was sluggish, the directions of major economies were diverging, and many countries were facing downward economic pressure while trying to maintain steady growth, development gaps had been created between China, the?CEECs, Europe, and the rest of the world, thus presenting new development potentials. China still boasts suf ficient production capacity and large foreign exchange reserves, and because of a shift from its position as the world’s factory into a large base providing manufacturing equipment and marked for superior products from around the world, Li was sure it could help in making contributions to exploiting potential and narrowing the gaps. Thanks to China and the CEECs’ deepening cooperation, he said, there are many win-win benefits and results for the two regions, as well as the rest of the European Union (EU).
Li further pointed out that entrepreneurs should realize the potential in the China-CEEC cooperation, have confidence in the market and seize opportunities to work together to promote bilateral trade and investment. There is still a large gap in terms of promoting bilateral trade: the CEECs have numerous competitive and unique products, but they aren’t well-received in China. The key is that entrepreneurs need to be able to feel the pulse of the Chinese market and consumer demand. The Chinese and various CEEC governments are working to improve?customs clearance and personal exchanges to create favorable conditions for enterprises on both sides.
Zhang was moved to action by Li’s speech, and he saw an opportunity to return home and respond to the call. In April 2015 he returned to China with products from Serbia and attended the first China-CEEC Investment & Trade Expo held in Ningbo in early June. He fell in love with the city and in November he met with city officials and?decided to set up shop in Ningbo for several reasons: it was close to mountains and rivers; the city has high standard of living and cleanliness, as well as bustling port and good trade policies; and its rich commercial?atmosphere, prosperous economy, and great spending power. In December 2015 he established his company, Something Time Co., Ltd. (S·TH·TIME), in the Beilun Free Trade Zone, delivering goods from Europe to China?via container shipping. Products he chose to import were those with local characteristics and popular in China – namely European juice cocktails and sunflower seed oil, and Serbian wine.
When most people think of quality wine, they immediately see France, Italy, and Spain, so what’s so great about wine from Serbia? “For one thing,” Zhang tells us, “Serbia is on the same latitude as the famous wine-producing regions. It is suitable for planting, picking, and fermenting different grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon,?Riesling, cabernet franc, vilana, and merlot with ample sunshine.” Thanks to a thousand year history of wine production, Serbian wine isn’t inferior to more famous wines in terms of quality. Furthermore, because area?for wine production in France is limited but demand is high, they need to purchase a great deal of wine from Serbia to balance things out. Plus, because of its obscurity, Serbia’s wines are reasonably priced and guaranteed genuine.
The majority of wine Zhang imports is supplied by Lanonna Winery in S. Karlovci near the Danube River, a region listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The current proprietor is the fourth generation of the family of owners, with the history of the winery being traced to the early 19th century. The winery still uses traditional?hand-making methods, annually producing 70,000 to 80,000 bottles of wine according to current grape production.
To help promote the wine, S·TH·TIME hired Serbian soccer star and former Tianjin Teda Football Club captain Marko Zori? to be the face of Ianonna Winery in China. Zori? is not only a wine enthusiast, but a pioneer of the Chinese wine market. He has well-known in the Beijing-Tianjin area and has called China home for almost 10 years. He is so gung ho about wine, in fact, that he often drives to the distribution center to look over all the orders and guarantee the quality of the wine when batches are shipped in.
When asked about cur rent business volume, Zhang told me that it is going well in Ningbo, because products originally aimed at mid- and high-level consumers are purchased more widely in the city. For instance, a middle-aged woman is just as likely to purchase a quality bottle of wine or juice cocktails as a young person is in Ningbo. S·TH·TIME is cooperating with supermarkets that specialize in imported goods, like Multibuy, InTime Choice and Dute International to get their goods out there, and they also host introduction meetings in the Beilun FTZ to connect with enterprises outside Ningbo and demonstrate the competitive advantages of their products.
While business is booming, difficulties have arisen from time to time. Preservatives and additives in imported foods are limited, so the expiration dates are not long. For example, the expiration date for sunflower seed oil is 2 years while juice cocktails are 18 months. Most snacks imported by S·TH·TIME last 12 to 18 months, and it takes aat least 70 days from the day its produced in the factory to reach Ningbo. Food with shorter shelf life– three months or less – is sent to clearance. In order to avoid overstock risk, products must come and go fast.
At present, S·TH·TIME’s primary business is wholesale. Zhang tells us the company intends to shift development towards retail and e-commerce in the near future. He considers Ningbo as a pivoting point to gradually expand business into other cities. Following the suggestions of Premier Li, Zhang truly has seized opportunities and is?riding the momentum of the partnership between China and the CEECs.
一年半前，第四届中国- 中东欧国家经贸论坛在塞尔维亚首都贝尔格莱德举办，中国及中东欧16 国政府和企业界代表共1500 余人参加。今天我们在宁波进口商品中心见到的青田籍华侨张镱迈先生，就是其中的一个代表。当时他已经在塞尔维亚生活了11 年，先后做过贸易、餐饮、旅行社和足球经纪公司等。
李总理的话让张先生深有感触。他看到了回国的契机，决定积极响应号召。2015 年4 月，他就带着塞尔维亚的产品回国，并参加了6 月上旬于宁波举办的首届中国- 中东欧投资贸易博览会。随后的一段时间，他走遍了大半个中国，考虑要在哪里落户生根。11 月，再次跟宁波市政府相关人员接触以后，张先生决定要留下来：首先，宁波依山傍海，城市规划整洁漂亮，非常适宜生活；其次，宁波既是港口城市，又有很好的政策支持；再次，宁波商业氛围浓厚、经济发达，民众整体素质高、消费力强；最后他还强调说，宁波政府的工作人员特别有服务意识。2015 年12 月，张先生正式把公司注册落户在宁波北仑保税港区，以集装箱海运的形式从欧洲发货回国。作为主打，他选择了既有当地特色又与人民日常生活息息相关的红酒、鸡尾酒和葵花籽油。
张先生告诉我们，拉诺纳·慕乐嘉酒庄坐落于美丽的多瑙河畔的卡拉诺维奇镇（该镇已被联合国列入世界历史文化遗产），现任经营者已经是酒庄的第四代主人，历史可以追溯到19 世纪上叶。酒庄一直保持传统手工制作，根据现有葡萄产量，每年只能生产7 到8 万瓶葡萄酒。
“当然困难也是存在的。因为进口食品用的添加剂、防腐剂少，保质期都不长。葵花籽油的保质期是2 年，果汁鸡尾酒是18 个月，接下来陆续进关的进口零食多数为12 到18 个月，从工厂生产到装柜再到海运回宁波，起码得花70 余天，而食品接近保质期3 个月甚至更长时间就要考虑清仓。所以为了不压货，我们的商品一定要快进快出。”
Clarification: In the print version of this article, the name of the winery that supplies Zhang was written as “Ianonna”, when it is in fact “Lanonna.”