Uygur man from Xinjiang achieves success in inland China

Caption: Abdullah Urasimu roasts kebabs skillfully in his restaurant. The restaurant, which is about 300 meters from Bayi Square in Nanchang, east China’s Jiangxi Province, sees a continuous stream of customers every day. (Photo by Dai Linfeng/People’s Daily)

By Zheng Shaozhong, Dai Linfeng, People’s Daily

Abdullah Urasimu is a man from northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region running successful barbecue business in Nanchang, capital of east China’s Jiangxi Province. However, the endeavor of the man, who now owns 44 chain restaurants, is known by few.

“Every restaurant of mine represents ethnic unity, as I could have achieved nothing these years in Nanchang without the help of my brothers of Han nationality.” That’s what Abdullah always says.

Abdullah and his wife arrived in Nanchang in Sept. 2002 after a five-day trip on a hard-seat train. Due to the different arrival times of passenger and freight trains – something that the couple failed to figure out then, they were trapped in an awkward situation that they arrived much earlier than their 160 kilograms of raisins did, and all they had was 40 yuan (about $5.72) in cash.

Fortunately, they were helped by the warmhearted who offered water and food to them and helped them get through a 3-day difficult period at the train station.

Abdullah is from Moyu County, Hotan Prefecture in southern Xinjiang. In 1997, he traveled eastward with a relative to seek a livelihood. He once sold sweet Xinjiang raisins in many Chinese provinces, including Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi.

“Liang kuai qian yi liang (2 yuan for 50 grams)” was the first sentence Abdullah learnt to say in Mandarin.

“My customers never bargained with me, as they consider the efforts it took me to bring the products from a place so far away. Some even thanked me for the deals,” said Abdullah, adding that these details warmed him.

When he first settled in Nanchang, Abdullah failed to find an appropriate dwelling because of tight budget. Relevant departments of the Nanchang municipal government, after learning his condition, found one for the couple and promised them that they could pay the rent after they made enough money.

Abdullah’s dried fruit business encountered low season in summer as these months in Nanchang were always rainy. Therefore, to find a new way to make a living posed a big problem for him.

By chance, Abdullah met a woman who sold pancakes. “She was doing very well with her business. And she taught all her techniques to me to help me out, all for free,” said Abdullah, who set up a pancake stall at Nanchang railway station after he mastered the skills in 2007, and gradually gained a foothold in the city.

“When you make friends with good people, your flowers blossom,” Abdullah often says this Uygur adage.

Starting from 2010, Nanchang started improving the environment around the train station and requested to remove the food stalls there. For quite a time, Abdullah couldn’t understand the decision and hardly accepted it.

Xu Yong, a local police officer explained relevant policies to Abdulla, telling him that running unregulated food stalls was not long-term plan, and he would only secure a livelihood in Nanchang with his own restaurant.

What Xu said made Abdullah realize the importance for him to own a restaurant, so he rented a place soon and started his barbecue business which has been on an upward trajectory since then.

“I was offered ‘green channels’ by the market supervision, tax and municipal management departments when I went through the formalities for opening the restaurant. I was always told by the officials that I can work hard and make a name. They said they would help me through difficulties,” Abdullah recalled, sharing his memories of the early days of his restaurant.

In 2017, Abdullah registered a catering management company, and so far, it has incubated 44 chain restaurants and employs more than 240 people.

In an effort to help more fellow-townsmen from Xinjiang increase income, Abdullah, with the support of the organizations of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Jiangxi and Xinjiang, serves as the leader of a management and service team for migrant workers and business people from Hotan.

When recruiting, Abdulla would prioritize his fellow villagers who want to secure a job in the inland, and teach them how to cook and roast. He also offers interest-free start-up loans for the star performers.

Besides, he has invested tens of thousands of yuan and established a Mandarin training center together with a local management committee of Xihu District. The center has held six training sessions so far, benefiting more than 200 people.

“Xinjiang and Jiangxi are both homes to me, and I love them both,” said Abdullah.