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Finding a second home in Changshu

Italian Fabio Arancio is among the group of foreigners who has settled into life well in Changshu, a city just north of Suzhou.
The 37-year-old works for the China unit of Danieli, one of the top three metallurgical equipment makers in the world. He travels frequently between Changshu and Beijing, where the company has its other China-based factory. Arancio controls financial affairs, assesses plant performances, manages projects, and supports Danieli’s general manager in Asia to coordinate activities in different regions with the Italy-based headquarters.
He considers Changshu, a countylevel city under the jurisdiction of Suzhou, a second home and where his career has flourished.
“I like Changshu very much because of its great economic potential,” said Arancio, who has lived in the city for six years. “The entertainment facilities are good, the food is nice, and I enjoy the scenic surroundings. It is the right place to work and enjoy spare time.”
Danieli’s plant is in the Changshu Economic and Technology Development Zone, which comprises more than 5,000 companies, of which 600
are multinationals such as Jaguar Land Rover, Qoros, Novartis, Dunlop, and Sharp.
“I feel the government is really doing a lot to help companies develop,” he said. “The economic zone managers are eager to help companies recruit talent, find suppliers and customers, and communicate with the government.”
Frequent chances to travel, the chance to try exotic foods and visit beautiful places has made for an enjoyable lifestyle, but of all his adventures, Arancio said he loves telling his family and friends about Changshu.
“I see things changing here,” he said. “I’ve witnessed modern buildings and gardens emerging from uncultivated land. Six years is not a very long period, but the changes have been huge.”
Arancio still remembers the difficulties in hailing a cab downtown to take him to work when he arrived, but now cabbies know the economic zone, which is also accessible by public transport.
Transport infrastructure continues to improve in the area. Changshu will soon be connected by high-speed rail to Shanghai, Taicang, and Nantong.
“That will bring further benefits to me as it will be easier to reach big cities and airports,” Arancio said.
Convinced of Changshu’s benefits to both businesses and individuals, he is active in persuading parents and foreign friends to visit.
“Coming to work in this country has changed a lot about what I thought about China,” he said. “So I always push my European friends to come here because it is the only way you can see and taste the real China.”
Now he kindly recommends the city government work to make Changshu even better.
“There should be more international events in the city to attract people,” he said. “We should tell everyone about this very important city. It has already attracted much investment and the government is very supportive. Just a little more international visibility could produce the opportunities that Changshu deserves.”
He moved to China in 2008, when many Western companies shifted their attention to emerging economies due to the impact of the global financial crisis and European debt crisis.
He admits the decision to leave behind a comfortable life in Italy was difficult, but he has no regrets.
“I wanted to do more for the company, but because of the financial crisis there were not many opportunities in Italy,” he said. “Here I can share my experience and expertise with colleagues.”
His was warmly welcomed by his Chinese colleagues, keeping him oriented and rid of anxiety.
“It was like being home,” he said. “After a couple of years I decided to bring my girlfriend here, and we got married in 2012.”
He said it has been great to see his wife adapt to life here. Arancio enjoys providing a different life for his wife where she can take Chinese lessons, indulge in spa treatments and explore a diverse country.
His schedule is hectic. He spends an average of two to three days per week on business trips in China and Asia. He also needs to report to company headquarters in Italy several times a year. While in Changshu, his 12-hour work days require a great deal of concentration as he remains abreast of what is happening at Danieli’s facilities across different time zones.
“Since China is in the middle of the Asian market, it’s easier for me to be here and provide support for the other plants,” he said. “This is the main reason I like my job. It’s great that I get to work with a lot of people in different cultures.”
Although he likes Changshu’s proximity to Shanghai and Suzhou, the Italian prefers living in a smaller city. He said he enjoys the slower pace of life in Changshu and the adequate green space, which allows him to relax and enjoy fresher air.
In his spare time, Arancio enjoys cycling with his wife. Together they have covered many attractions and cities in Jiangsu Province. He said he often rides from Changshu to nearby cities. If he is feeling particularly adventurous, Arancio packs his mountain bike in the back of his car and drives to some remote place. He then hops on his bike and begins exploring the surrounding villages, lakes and hills.
“Bikes take me off the main roads,” he said. “This gives me the chance to see a different and more intimate picture of these places.
“I want to go almost everywhere.” Although many expatriates remain in China for five years or less, Arancio envisions his long term future in Changshu.
“Since we settled down we have expanded a lot and investment  is continuing, I’ll be here as long as Danieli needs me,” he said. “China is the most challenging and most active economy. It is the market that is driving the world.”


I’ve witnessed modern buildings and gardens emerging from uncultivated land. Six years is not a very long period, but the changes have been huge.

Fabio Arancio


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