From exchange student to business veteran, Swiss man shares his story with import expo
Published: Nov 14, 2022 08:36 PM
The fifth China International Import Expo in Shanghai Photo: VCG

The fifth China International Import Expo in Shanghai Photo: VCG

Editor's Note: 

China's modernization has been an epic journey over the past decades. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China has become an attractive destination for many foreigners. Many such expats in the country have fulfilled their career aspirations, while some have found love and started families in China. 

Why do they choose to live in China? How do expats in China view and interpret China's achievements and persistence measured from various perspectives? 

The Global Times interviewed multiple international residents in China from all walks of life, some of whom have made tangible contributions to China's development, to learn about their understanding of the essence of Chinese culture, and gain an insight into how far China has advanced in its pursuit of development and rejuvenation over the last decade.

As one intimately familiar with the China International Import Expo (CIIE), a world-class international business platform, 33-year-old Kuno Gschwend, general manager of Swiss Centers China (SCC), busily put final touches to the expo venue two days ahead of the expo's opening.

Thanks to his rich experience in attending the event, Gschwend is quite familiar with the entire organizational process in arranging relevant activities right down to booth design. "I'm happy to see that even though the pandemic has had some influence, the CIIE has remained open," Gschwend told the Global Times. 

"Since the beginning, the CIIE has been a sign of China's willingness to cooperate and trade with the world," Gschwend said. "It's for China to show how imported products are important to the market and that it's willing to provide such an opportunity."

With increased focus on premium goods from a longer list of global heavyweights, a  total of 145 participatory countries, regions, and international organizations have signed up for the fifth annual CIIE expo, according to the CIIE organizer, and the platform increasingly shows its importance in the global market. 

Spearheading SCC service delivery to Swiss businesses entering the Chinese as well as Asian markets, Gschwend expects to introduce more Swiss products to Chinese consumers and elevate Swiss company branding in the region. Its 136-square-meter booth at the CIIE showcased 20 Swiss brands, mostly from the food and beverage industry.  

Despite global downturns fueled by the pandemic, trading between Switzerland and China remained largely unscathed.

The business administration degree holder is also quadrilingual, boasting fluency in German, French, English, and Chinese, all of which have helped accelerate Gschwend's career trajectory. 

In 2019, Gschwend attended his CIIE expo as the deputy general manager, and as the general manager this year. "The CIIE has delivered huge benefits, such as facilitating the introduction of new products to China and increasing sales revenues and media coverage for its participants."

Kuno Gschwend Photo: Courtesy of Gschwend

Kuno Gschwend Photo: Courtesy of Gschwend

'Get along well with locals'

Living and working abroad has been very memorable and influential for Gschwend. "My first touchpoint with China was in 2014, when I was an exchange student at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies," Gschwend recalled. After completing his studies in Switzerland, he returned to Xiamen University in 2016 to learn Putonghua. He currently lives and works in Shanghai, a metropolis of more than 25 million residents.

As expected, Gschwend grappled with nuances of living in China as a foreigner, facing linguistic challenges, and working to understand important aspects such as business culture in China. 

He enjoys traveling to different regions across China such as Southwest China's Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. He actively made social connections, chatting with both neighbors and strangers. 

"I can speak Chinese and mostly get along very well with all the locals," said the Shanghai resident who enjoys a warm reception from his fellow Shanghainese thanks to his impeccable Putonghua. 

 Gschwend has also gotten to witness marriages and births, as well as the loss of loved ones experienced by his local connections. 

He said that Chinese and Swiss people are basically striving for a better life and face similar life challenges. 

"There exists a stronger sense of pride among the Chinese people and they realize that some things work better in China than they do in other countries," Gschwend said.