Vietnamese cross-border workers ride China’s economic boom
It is the busiest time of the year at Nguyen Thien Kam Wan’s goods store in Dongxing, a Chinese border city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Ahead of Singles’ Day, China’s annual shopping bonanza, the Vietnamese businesswoman had been shipping Vietnamese specialties to Chinese buyers, who placed orders for more than 2,000 bags of dried jackfruit alone.
“It [Singles’ Day] is larger than our sales in a normal month,” she said.
For many years, Nguyen Thien Kam Wan has crossed the border from the Vietnamese city of Mong Cai to Dongxing every morning, before returning home to Vietnam after the working day is over.
She received less than $100 a day when running the business in 2003, but now, her daily revenue surpasses $500, partly thanks to the Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, which she and her Chinese friend have used since 2014.
“Back in 2003, I didn’t see many Vietnamese businesspeople like me, and I always finished work early. But now, customs has extended the closure time to 7 pm,” she said.
In the 1990s, China began allowing border residents to conduct small-scale cross-border businesses, attracting Vietnamese residents to Dongxing, which is just across the border from Mong Cai.
In 2012, the Dongxing government allowed Vietnamese residents to open stores in the city, fueling another surge in the number of workers crossing the border.
According to government data, there are now 1,886 Vietnamese stores operating in China, with registered capital of more than 28 million yuan ($4.3 million).
Furthermore, as of March 2016, there were 10,000 cross-border workers filling a variety of jobs in Dongxing, according to official statistics.
Business between China and Vietnam is booming, with bilateral trade hittig $100 billion in 2016, which has led to an increasing number of Vietnamese workers coming to work in the city during the day.
China’s miraculous economic growth since the country’s opening up and reform in the late 1970s has benefited its neighbors, including Vietnam, especially in border trade, according to Phung Thi Hue from the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences.
In addition to traditional trade in goods, some border residents of the two countries have seized opportunities in China’s booming e-commerce sector, said the senior researcher.
Figures from data provider Syntun show that China’s major e-commerce sites recorded nearly 254 billion yuan (about $38 billion) in sales over 24 hours during this year’s Singles’ Day on November 11, the name of which derives from the date 11/11 as it resembles four “bare sticks,” a term used in China to refer to single people.
Besides commuters, an increasing number of Vietnamese workers have been stationed in factories in Guangxi’s border cities such as Pingxiang as well as Dongxing.
Dongxing began implementing a pilot scheme in 2015 allowing eight local factories to hire about 1,000 Vietnamese employees for a single stay of up to six months. Now, more than 4,000 Vietnamese workers are hired by nearly 20 factories in the city as the scheme expanded. Pingxiang began its pilot scheme in early 2017.
As a beneficiary of the pilot, Hoang Chunyan works at Dongxing Yicheng Food Development Company, earning at least 2,000 yuan a month, higher than a similar job would offer in her hometown.
The company, with more than 300 Vietnamese workers in the peak season, provides employees with accident insurance, giving its machine workers peace of mind.
Vietnamese employees help relieve the shortage of blue-collar workers in border areas, according to Jiang Liansheng, head of Guangxi’s commerce department.
“China’s Belt and Road Initiative will bring closer cooperation between the two countries and border trade will be more prosperous,” Phung Thi Hue said.
“Therefore, more and more Vietnamese people are expected to seek jobs in China.”
Several Vietnamese vendors from the Vietnamese city of Mong Cai, just across the China-Vietnam border, sell goods in Dongxing, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region during the National Day holiday.