When millions of Chinese rushed home for Spring Festival, Wu Xingqiang chose to stay put 1,600 km away from his hometown on Monday, the start of Chinese New Year.
Wu needed to look after his rosewood furniture store in Pingxiang, a bustling trade town on the China-Vietnam border. Some of pieces of furniture in Xu's four-story 3,000-square-meter premises are priced around 1 million U.S dollars.
But back in 1996, when Wu first came to Pingxiang from his hometown in the coastal-eastern province of Fujian, he only had 3,000 yuan (475 U.S. dollars) in cash, and had a million-yuan debt hanging over him from a failed business.
"I felt very embarrassed at home, so I decided to make money elsewhere, and then stage a comeback," Wu exclaimed.
Guided by a professor in Nankai University, Wu travelled to Pingxiang in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Knowing nothing about border trade, Wu squatted at an entry and exit border gate observing the transport of goods. He then started exporting Chinese badminton rackets to Vietnam and importing Vietnamese food specialties to China.
Though Wu made some money from the trade, he did not start to really prosper until he imported rosewood products from Vietnam.
In 1998, three years after Wu arrived in Pingxiang, Vietnamese merchants began to sell rosewood handicrafts in the border trade town. Wu had three years of experience as a carpenter, recognized the value of rosewood, and decided to make furniture with rosewood imported from Vietnam.
Wu said soon after he set his furniture business onto the right track, as luck would have it, the price of rosewood furniture jumped substantially in China.
"Since then, my trade business has soared," Wu added.
The furniture store owner said he could not have risen from the ashes without closer economic cooperation between China and ASEAN nations.
According to Chinese General Administration of Customs, trade volume between China and ASEAN nations surged to 292.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, about 37 times of that in 1991, the year when China and ASEAN had the first official dialogue at the 24th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
The border trade leapt after the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.
In 1996, only about 10 people from Fujian ran businesses in the border town, while in 2011, the number of Fujian businessmen soared above 1,000, according to Wu, who is also the chairman of Fujian Chamber of Commerce in Pingxiang.
"I hope more people can come to the China and Vietnam border and make investments. Along with the development of China--ASEAN cooperation, I am sure the prospects of border trade will increase," Wu said.