Ancient Moscow looks younger
In March 2018, the Chinese company Baosteel Europe GmbH opened an office in Moscow, putting Ms. Zou Gang in charge. She is not just a business woman but also, according to her male colleague, is very smart and beautiful. Zou Gang loves Moscow and speaks excellent Russian, so that’s we started our discussion with.
How do you know Russian so well?
I graduated from the Russian language department at Harbin Pedagogical University in July 1991. So I majored in Russian. But textbooks are no match for talking with native speakers, so I’ve been in Russia many times since then. It’s also important to travel a lot and read classical literature, to work with primary sources directly.
You lived and studied in Harbin for a long time. This was the most “Russian” city in China, right?
A hundred years ago, Harbin’s population increased significantly due to an inflow of refugees fleeing Bolshevik Russia. Russian manufacturing, science, and culture developed successfully in Harbin.
There is still a Russian community in Harbin today, but the kind of Russians who live there are different. For the most part, these are students, mixed Russian-Chinese families, and people who come to Harbin for work.
Do you have a favorite place in the Russian capital?
I like Moscow. I like the ancient architecture, I like the Red Square and the Kremlin. You can never forget its wide avenues, cozy alleys, and squares with a lot of shade. After coming here once, you want to come back again and again.
After graduating from university, I read a lot about the history of Russia and its capital. And when I came to Moscow for a big management job in November 2012, I went to a lot of museums and picture galleries in spite of being very busy all the time.
I like Russian ballet and the opera. I recently went to a gala concert at the Kremlin Palace.
In your opinion, how has the Russian capital changed over the past five years?
Moscow looks younger and better. The city has become noticeably cleaner. There are excellent roads, modern interchanges, a high-speed metro, and pedestrian areas. The entire center has gone through a lot of restoration, and it’s a pleasure to look at. I really like walking around in Moscow parks, like Kolomenskoye and Tsarytsino.
I also have a lot of positive impressions of people who live in Moscow. In spite of the crisis and Western sanctions, Muscovites have remained warm and friendly.
People in Beijing often complain about pollution. How is the air Moscow?
The majority of modern Beijing offices operate with the windows closed, and the air is circulated through air conditioners. This happens because the air is very polluted. The reason for this is Beijing’s geographic location: it’s surrounded by mountains on three sides, and the city itself is in a basin. Plus, the tall buildings create serious problems in terms of air circulation. The large number of cars, which is growing exponentially every year, also plays a big role in terms of pollution.
In any case, the Chinese government is doing a lot right now to improve the environmental conditions in Beijing and other cities in the country.
Moscow, on the other hand, is in a better geographic location. In spite of the large number of cars, the air isn’t very polluted, even in the center. Seeing the blue sky over my head makes me extremely happy.
In your opinion, is doing business in Moscow under current conditions comfortable for foreigners?
It’s pretty good, we have nothing to complain about. Both service and living conditions in Moscow are very well organized. There are good office conditions as well. This is an accomplishment for the city’s current mayor, Sergey Sobyanin. It’s obvious that he is a professional who loves what he does and does it well.
It’s hard not to notice that there aren’t many women in the international business community today. How are things in China in this respect?
People everywhere think that business is a man’s job. In China, business people are also overwhelmingly men. But there are women as well. And this situation is unlikely to change in the near future. At least not in China. It’s also a tradition that goes back thousands of years – men have occupied key positions in society for a long time.
Chinese women are pretty domestic for the most part. They wait for their men to come back from work, take care of the children, and look after the household. Chinese men are providers. They work hard, provide for the family, go on business trips.
At the same time, women are by nature more social than men. A woman who takes case of the household is always working. She keeps track of thousands of details and never gets to rest in the complete sense of this word. Dozens of domestic tasks start early in the morning and only finish late into the night to start back up again in the morning. This state of affairs has made women more resilient than men, able to concentrate on specific tasks and work to accomplish things continuously, even if it’s in small steps.
So you can’t really call women “the weaker sex” in terms of business, and the annual increase in the number of successful female entrepreneurs and top managers serves as testament to this fact.
Though I’ll say again that this isn’t so much the case for traditional China.
Do you have a lot of women working in your office in Moscow?
Our office is small. There aren’t many employees, and most of them are men. But there is endless work to be done. People call us “the window into CIS.’
Could you talk about what Baosteel does?
Our company is the largest in China’s iron and steel industry. It’s in second place in the world in terms of steelmaking capacity and strives to become the most competitive and most attractive manufacturer from the investment point of view.
In March of this year, Baosteel opened an office in Moscow. It’s in charge of promoting the company’s products on CIS markets.
The company has been manufacturing steel for the automotive industry for over 25 years, and has over 20 years of experience in the production of high-strength steel. Baosteel offers a wide range of special services and technical support for our partners in the automotive industry, from the development of the bodies to the launch of products and quality control. The company’s products meet the highest international quality standards and include new generation of automotive high-strength, as well as first-class steel for the production of household appliances, oil and gas pipes, 100-meter rails and so on.
Aside from Russia, what other countries does Baosteel have offices in?
In the US, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Germany, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Turkey. There are 18 countries overall.
A lot of people in the West seem to think that the Chinese gravitate more toward the US than Russia. Is this the case?
I think this depends on what specific people want or don’t want. In this case, the US needs, for example, electronic appliances or mobile phones that are made in China. Right now, affordable, quality goods are in high demand in the US.
Moreover, Americans often experience shortages of affordable consumer goods. China, in turn, purchases cars, chemicals, and plant products from the US. This is called business.
Our relations with Russia are another story. You supply us with oil and gas, and we supply you with clothes and cars. But the difference is that a strong friendship between our people is at the foundation of our successful trade and economic relations. We don’t do anything to harm each other. This has been the case historically and it will always be the case.
Do you live here with your family?
My family members can come visit me in Moscow often.
This is a lot of trouble for you, right?
I must admit I also miss my family and friends. But I often go to China as well.