A personal tale of Route2China’s founder and director, Min Wang. To support us and to order mask, please visit https://maskenkauf.ch/.
2020 started off very well for us, the sales pipeline is filled. After 3 years of bringing mobility program to vocational schools, finally more and more schools, companies and apprentices realized that we live in a globalized world and getting an international work experience in a leading economy very different from ours is a valuable asset. Our Shanghai ICT Program is a head-runner. Every October we bring around 30 best IT apprentices from Switzerland to work on projects for startups in co-working spaces and incubators. China offers one of the more exciting IT and entrepreneurial scenes in the world and Shanghai, this 24-million mega city is a jewel for young people. The whole IT eco system is completely different from the West, the city never sleeps and there is just plenty of opportunities for everyone to discover.
Soon Chinese New Year arrived, unfortunately it brought the bad news: Wuhan was locked down because of Covid-19. Wuhan? At first, I couldn’t believe my ears. Wuhan is my hometown, where I was born and lived until I was 14 years old. This is a lively major industrial city on the Yangzi River. But now all I can see from video clips are empty and ghostly streets. It broke my heart to see such emptiness, because I never saw Wuhan in such a stillness, not even at midnight on a cold Winter night. All I had in my mind was I need to help Wuhan, they needed masks and medical supplies. So together with the organization, China Switzerland Connection, we managed to deliver protective masks, goggles and ventilators to Wuhan. The major difficulty was to get the goods into the city, in hospitals, where the supplies were needed the most. At a time, Wuhan was completed shutdown from the rest of the world and nothing was allowed to go in or out of the city. After multiple turbulent attempts, we finally handed over the goods to Wuhan Hospital No. 7. I was relieved and proud. I had never imagined only 6 weeks later, I was establishing connections and managing to get masks and medical supplies the other way around, from China to Switzerland.
February was devastating for me. Most of the groups scheduled to go to China in Spring and early Summer had cancelled or postponed their programs.
Then the disaster hit the ground in March, corona virus had spread out in Europe and soon to almost all the countries in the world. Covid-19 has proven to be the fastest spreading virus and it held almost every person in the world in Lockdown, no matter where they live and what color of skins they have. In the eyes of virus, we are all the same and with rapid globalization, airplanes and speed trains, the virus just travelled faster and further than ever. Also, Switzerland was locked down and was in dire need of masks and other medical supplies. I had the connections in China, so it took little time and soon I was helping out Swiss hospitals to source masks and other medical supplies from China. Only this direction, it was 10 times harder. Suddenly everyone is making masks in China, the market was filled with fake goods selling at a dirty, cheap price. Consumer has no idea how to judge the quality and often fell into the trap buying the cheapest mask which had no protection at all. The whole freight system was broken-down with congestions and the raw material was doubling its price on a weekly basis, at the worst time, on a daily basis. In response to control the situation, the Chinese Government was issuing new regulations every week, which made things worse for us. Half of the goods which were already on the way were blocked and stuck at the customs. This was a supply chain nightmare. Price was moving on a daily basis, there was no guarantee on the transportation. And the quality? Only 20% were serious providers, so you need to get your hands filthy and check the factories in real person. Every supplier was hand-picked by people I trusted. It was just a crazy time with some best lessons I learnt.
Talking about lessons learnt, here are mine. The corona virus has brought the world to a stand-still. One could hide in bedcovers, be depressed and complain how unfair this happened in our life-time. But I chose to react differently. Like many other small and medium businesses, also Route2China’s work came to a stand-still. Exchange programs to China is just un-thinkable at this moment of time. But instead of passively waiting until everything is over, I actively used my business connections to help Switzerland and China. I could have lay on the balcony and enjoy the sunny, warm days, but that wasn’t me. Instead, I spent numerous sleepless nights doing what I can do, making sure the supplies were sourced with good quality, the goods arrive on time and we can offer a fair price.
Was it worth it? Yes, I was able to divert my energy to contribute something positive at a time of adversity. It makes me forget or ignore much of the negativeness around and I was able to focus on doing something good. Chinese believe, if you do good, the good will come around to you one day. Meanwhile, I am working with Swiss Centers, supported by the Swiss Embassy and other partners to help more organizations and countries to source masks and other protective gears.
For mobility program in China, we also have some creative solutions. This Summer we will test our first virtual exchange programs with 20 Swiss apprentices. The program includes cross-border project management, one-to-one coaching sessions, business and cultural training webinars via Zoom and even a virtual company visit with Go-pro is planned. I look forward to see how this project will turn out.
When fate slaps you in the face, you acknowledge it, feel the pain, but don’t let this pain drag you down. You fall, you raise up, and you embrace the worst challenge in your life with a decisive mindset. You decide not to give up, you decide to find light in the darkest night, you decide to be open-minded and to search for solutions and alternatives. This is how you can build up resilience and if you survive, you will be stronger than ever.
I look forward to after Covid-19, with the hope for a world which is more self-conscious, more focused on the important things and more united than ever. We live in a globalized civilization, only hand-in-hand, we can solve Tomorrow’s challenges better and faster. I also wish more young people will get a chance to see the other side of the globe, to expand their horizon and to understand life from another perspective and in another culture-content. Life goes on and we will raise ourselves from ashes.