In the 2000 I began my career in China as a senior adviser to the Yantai Investment Development Board (IDB), reporting to the Yantai municipal government. My position involves the promotion of Yantai City and Shandong Province among western business circles, and also in eastern circles where I have significant connections and enough convincing investors. The aim is to attract investment and business in numerous fields, such as agriculture, viticulture, aquaculture, automotive industries, machinery, gold and silver, granite, electronics, cement, high tech, shipyards, textiles, light industries and much more.
I admire my Chinese colleagues at IDB greatly. Some speak fluent French, English, Korean, German or Japanese. They are all extremely dedicated, energetic and serious professionals; committed to Yantai's continuing success, and fully engaged with the achievements of China's rapid development.
My wife, Chantal, and I love life in Yantai. We naturally appreciate the good food and fine wines-a particular favorite of ours being the delicious Yantai seafood. The abundant fruits and vegetables here make healthy eating a delight, and for breakfast we enjoy eating the crisp and sweet Yantai apples. In the evening we love to drink the exquisite Yantai wines, such as the Changyu brand-as good as any first-class French wine. From time to time we like to eat a newly opened French restaurant where the French chef, Mr. Lakiffe, cooks extraordinarily good meat and fish.
Humbert was awarded by the Chinese government.
The life we lead here is much the same as the local residents of the city. We travel by the extremely good public bus network; we go shopping at supermarkets; we go out for walks along the beaches and trek through the hills. My wife and I also love to play golf on the superb courses of Muping, Longkou and Haiyang (although to be honest, golf is a game I like but does not much like me). We are often invited to dinner by Chinese friends and colleagues-they are extremely considerate of us, allowing us to feel almost completely integrated into Chinese society. Living here is gradually giving us both an understanding of the Chinese lifestyle and way of thinking.
I am extremely proud to be an honorary citizen of the city and receiver of a China National Friendship Award. I often appear on television and in the newspapers here, so my face is familiar to many of Yantai's residents. One day, taking a cab, the driver recognized my face. When we arrived at my destination, he refused to take the fare. "No way!" he said, "It is my honor to drive you, because you're doing so much for our city." I also love studying the Chinese language. I have worked hard and can now get by with the expressions I have learned, although my wife can speak much more than me. I rarely have the chance to practice, because all my Chinese colleagues speak English, French, German, Korean or Japanese, and prefer to speak with me in English or French.
Humbert is fond of Chinese snacks.
Yantai is a vast and prosperous city of almost 14 thousand square kilometers, with around seven million inhabitants. In terms of business opportunity, it enjoys a strategic position between Beijing, Dalian, Seoul, Osaka and Shanghai. Many foreign investors choose Yantai for its outstanding location as well as the high standard of living.
Yantai's airports and harbors are huge regional assets, which also possesses remarkable infrastructures such as brand-new highways, linking Yantai to all major cities in China. Polluting industries are limited in the city to keep the environment protected for purposes of agriculture and tourism. There are 900 kilometers of outstanding coastline, and every year hundreds of thousands of tourists arrive.
The education and hospital systems are two other remarkable resources of Yantai. 100 thousand students, including foreign students from countries such as France, Austria, the US and Germany, study at the seven universities and 17 technical colleges. These skilled engineers and well-educated businessmen of the future will be the first choice for both foreign and Chinese companies. The hospitals of Yantai are extremely modern and well equipped, like the Yantaishan Hospital.
I have found that people in Yantai are extremely hard working, honest, and blessed with a great sense of humor. My wife and I often go shopping in the colorful markets of Yantai and if we forget our change, merchants will often run after us to return our money.
The Yantai government is very efficient, ambitious, and supportive of foreign businessmen. They have a deeply business-oriented spirit, and are an investment-minded organization. In fact, Yantai enjoys one of the best quality-to-cost ratios in China. The quality of life, beautiful landscapes, healthy environment, sea, education and hospitals, along with the affordable living costs, make Yantai one of the most pleasant places to live and work among the coastal cities of China. Many western and foreigners of Chinese descent have lived in Yantai for years. Enjoying the lifestyle so much, they have decided to stay forever.
Humbert and his friends often relax in the bars of Yantai.
Yantai fresh air, clear blue sea, golden sands, beautiful waterfronts bounded by forest-soaring mountains and the green environment make it a magnificent resort, perfect for fishing, trekking and outing in the sunny weather. I have been traveling almost everywhere in China and I can affirm that Yantai is my favorite place. It is very easy to come to Yantai, but difficult to leave, even for a couple of weeks.
I will continue to promote Yantai City's assets and image all over the world, because this wonderful city should be better known everywhere. My wife and I, we have decided to stay in Yantai forever.
There is a French proverb saying that the sailor who goes out on a long voyage never returns, because the sea changes him. I have been changed by China and feel destined to spend the rest of my life here.
(China Pictorial April 19, 2006)