China and Indonesia bond under palm trees

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Publish time: 16th July, 2014      Source: China.org.cn
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By Zheng Yan

China.org.cn, July 15, 2014

 

Every day when dawn breaks, Ahmed's family from a village two hours outside of Kalimantan Island, Indonesia, worships at a local mosque. After the religious ceremony, Ahmed and his wife travel by motorcycle to a plantation of palm trees to start their daily work. Their children go to school on a bus funded by the plantation owner of the Tianjin-based Julong Group. Life for Ahmed, and many others in Indonesia, revolves around the palm tree.

 

One of China's largest palm oil producers since its establishment in 1993, Julong Group invested US $9,958 in 2006 to build the first palm plantation in Indonesia.. The plantation produces palm oil that has been extracted with low melting point technology.

 

Because the amount of arable land has been decreasing each year , this technology is important. It guarantees the plantation yields , based on which Julong plans to expand its global supply.

 

The 80,000-hectare plantation and three extraction plants in Indonesia provide 8,000 jobs. The desolate village where Ahmed lives has turned into prosperous land.

 

Julong, a Chinese company, contributed to this dramatic change by participating in the construction of local infrastructure over the past 10 years including roads, bridges, signal towers, water purification plants, mosques and churches.

 

The plantation is a cooperative program among Julong, Indonesian State Cooperative Plantation Management Committee and villagers. Julong provides seeds and technology to local villagers who pay for the support by taking out loans from the local banks. After each harvest, Julong purchases the fruits from the farmers who then pay back their loans and keep a portion of the income as their own. The economic model applies to more than 5,000 families in 40 local villages.

 

Some local employees also work with Julong in planting palm trees to earn extra income. According to Li Guozheng, the deputy president of Julong Group in Indonesia, a couple can earn about 3,000 yuan (US$483) a month, a figure that nearly equals their average yearly income in the past.

 

Language barriers and cultural differences are the two common obstacles for Chinese companies that expand abroad, and Julong was no exception. The company appointed three decision makers- an experience Indonesian manager, a Chinese coordinator and a Chinese-Indonesian liaison- for each plantation zone. The company also has two managerial-level training programs called "Ivy Tree" and "Golden Palm" that help bridge the cultural gap. The "Ivy Tree" program focuses on teaching Chinese to Indonesian employees.

 

Employees start at Julong's Indonesian institute where they are taught fundamental Chinese before being sent to study at a Chinese university for one year. Then they intern in one of Julong's Chinese branches.When they return to Indonesia, the company appoints them to different posts according to their interests and abilities. The "Golden Palm" program sends Chinese graduates to Indonesia, but encountered a problem in the 1960s when thousands of Chinese-Indonesians were forced to leave Indonesia because of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

 

Wang Xiaotong is a mid-level manager at Julong. His grandfather was one of those forced to leave in the 1960s. When Julong sent Wang to Indonesia from Tianjin, his grandfather had a hard time accepting it.

 

"In those years I brought a huge number of people back from Indonesia," he said. "What on earth makes you lead so many people there?"

 

Wang, who has been in Indonesia for three years, assured his grandfather that attitudes have changed.

 

He often tells the company's newcomers, "Respect and friendship are mutual. People are only nice to you when you treat them well."

 

The author is the deputy general manager of Julong Group.

 

The article is written in Chinese and translated by Wu Jin.