The Chinese dream of an ordinary young Arab

On June 5, 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his speech at the opening ceremony of the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Sino-Arab Cooperation Forum that the Belt and Road, namely the Economic Belt of the Road of Silk and the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century, represent pathways to mutual benefits that will enable closer economic integration between the countries concerned and strengthen their capacity to achieve endogenous growth and protect themselves against risks. Concluding his speech, President Xi recounted a much-loved story that took place in Yiwu, a city known as the small commodity capital of the world in east China’s Zhejiang Province.

“There is a Jordanian businessman named Muhamad who runs a real Arab restaurant in Yiwu city, where many Arab businessmen congregate. By bringing true Arabic cuisine to Yiwu, he succeeded in this prosperous Chinese city and continued to marry a Chinese woman and settle in China. Integrating his own goals with the Chinese dream of happiness, this young Arab man has built a wonderful life for himself through his perseverance – he embodies a perfect combination of the Chinese Dream and the Arab Dream. “

Muhamad greets diners at the door of his Ward restaurant. Since President Xi mentioned Muhamad and his restaurant in the speech at the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, many people from China and abroad have come to dine here.

Yiwu is a county-level city in China that loves to buy and sell around the world. Every year, more than half a million buyers from outside the Chinese mainland visit Yiwu Small Commodity Market, which offers more than 1.8 million types of products. More than 13,000 merchants from more than 100 countries and regions have come to reside in this bustling international capital of small products.

Two blocks south of Yiwu International Trade City is the new Beyti restaurant that Jordanian businessman Muhamad opened in 2018. The restaurant serves authentic Arabic cuisine and bears witness to the stories of mutual benefit unfolding. within the framework of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

“‘Beyti’ means ‘my house’ in Arabic. I hope everyone who comes to ‘my house’, regardless of their nationality, will have their problems solved,” said Muhamad, who has lived in Yiwu for nearly 20 years. years. One of the first Jordanians to settle and start a business in Yiwu, Muhamad has always played his role as China’s son-in-law to his friends, which has made him an ambassador of friendship and a mediator of disputes.

Foreign merchants often visit Muhamad to ask him to help mediate economic disputes between merchants of different nationalities. Due to his rich experience in mediating overseas-related matters, at the end of June 2014, Muhamad was hired by the Yiwu City People’s Mediation Committee for Foreign-Related Disputes as a foreign mediator. There are a number of foreign mediators like Muhamad in Yiwu. Locals call them “laoniangjiu”, an affectionate nickname for trusted figures in local communities.

The Yiwu Municipal Government attaches great importance to the opinions of these foreigners. In 2015, a few foreign friends of Muhamad mentioned that they had to take their passports wherever they went and that if they lost their passports replacing them would be most inconvenient. Muhamad and a few others raised this issue with the Yiwu government, and in less than a year, the Foreign Citizen Card was introduced for expatriates in Yiwu, which can serve as an alternative to passports in administrative affairs of the city. Cardholders enjoy the same social security treatment as citizens of Yiwu in areas such as basic elderly care, medical care, and children’s education.

Muhamad said he owes his career to the “tailor-made” services the Yiwu government has provided to foreigners in recent years. “The Yiwu government is generous. It helps you whenever you have a problem. The government regularly meets with representatives of foreign chambers of commerce to learn more about the problems we have encountered. The issues we raised, including children’s education and medical care, have all been resolved. “The government is attaching increasing importance to making life and work more convenient for foreign traders. Major hospitals in Yiwu have hired translators to facilitate visits to the doctor for foreigners.

Muhamad designed a Belt and Road promotion wall in Beyti Restaurant to help more traders learn about the initiative. “Just as a wand is easily broken when a package does not, cooperation makes for better development,” he said.

“I really like China. I love my second hometown, Yiwu. As President Xi said, I moved to China.

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