Were it not for China’s economic reforms, Ma Zhi Qing would still be running a farm. Today he leads a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical corporate. Clarissa Dann visited the team to hear more about the role prepayment finance is playing in Shandong Qingyuan’s growth story
In 1981, three years after China decided to open its doors and put in place the economic reforms that were the vision of former premier Deng Xiaoping,1 a young farmer from Linzi in Shandong province had another vision.
One would be forgiven for thinking it could have been a dream of an international football career. After all, Cuju – a game played in ancient China by kicking a ball around that is widely held to be the progenitor of today’s game of football – started life 2,000 years ago in the very same province.
Ma Zhi Qing ran a 240-strong grain farming people’s cooperative, and at 22 years old was already a highly experienced manager. But he saw opportunities to develop a business with national and international impact. “Our agricultural businesses needed better logistics, so I invested my savings in my very first tractor,” reflects Ma. “By 1983, I had tripled my business and had three tractors, so I decided to invest again – but this time in my first truck, so that I could get into construction transportation logistics.”
I meet Ma, now the founder and president of one of China’s largest independent oil refineries, along with members of his senior team, at their industrial premises in Zibo, a three-hour high-speed train journey south from Beijing. He is justifiably proud of the recent installation of new refining machinery and we take a tour of the entire works, complete with the health and safety-approved hard hat and jacket. This includes a visit to the ‘engine room’ where every part of the factory is visible from a central hub of screens, ensuring that any disturbance to the journey of crude through to refined oil is tackled with no downtime. His team explain how some processes have a mirror set of equipment so production can be continuous while one set rests.
This article tells the story of how pre-delivery finance positioned what was one of a number of Shandong-based independent refineries to move to a new phase of organic growth.
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