To warm applause, Sissi Chao walked onstage to collect the 2018 Asia-Pacific Young Innovative Award for her recycling project REmakeHub based in Shanghai, which turns textile waste into fashion products.
Chao was one of the young entrepreneurs attending the Asia-Pacific Forum on Youth Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Beijing, jointly held by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the All-China Youth Federation.
Starting on August , the two-day event drew around 300 participants from more than 30 countries, discussing and exploring youth entrepreneurship under the UN sustainable development goals.
"Six months ago when we started the business, we never imagined that we could earn such a honor, which I believe owed a lot to the support from the UNDP and the local business partners in China who truly appreciated the ideas of young entrepreneurs like us," Chao said.
China is a strong supporter of the UN 2030 agenda and has actively promoted entrepreneurship, especially among young people in the past few years.
"During my trips in Beijing, I have been quite impressed by the atmosphere of the start-up cafes in Zhongguancun and incubation labs in Tsinghua University," said Xu Haoliang, UN assistant secretary-general and UNDP director of the regional bureau for Asia and Pacific.
Between 2010 and 2015, China's spending in research and development grew by 18 percent per year and surged to 2.07 percent of its GDP by 2015, said Xu, who believes the innovation development model will benefit the economy for years to come.
The vast entrepreneurial opportunity has also reached foreign talent beyond China.
"China's economic influence is increasing and the government has done a lot to drive innovation," said British entrepreneur Mahdi Shariff, co-founder of a network-building platform called Guanxi.AI.
Although there is still an imbalance of resources for entrepreneurs in different places, Shariff remains positive about the prospect of youth entrepreneurship in China, especially in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area where he mainly works.
"I like the Internet mindset of many Chinese entrepreneurs, namely always being ready to leverage their resources into new areas and industries," Shariff said.
Czech youth Jan Smejkal, who runs a global entrepreneur community named Startup Grind in China, flew all the way from Shenzhen to Beijing to join the forum as a speaker.
"Shenzhen and entire Greater Bay Area represent a huge opportunity for young entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial environment is still developing, so if people have the drive, are willing to work hard and provide value, they can definitely find their place in the ecosystem," Smejkal said.
Smejkal is impressed that many of his non-Chinese friends have recently received the so-called entrepreneur visa in China, which takes only around 10 days.
For another award-winner Esmeralda Lo Tam, founder of EI8HT Sports in Samoa in the south Pacific Ocean, the stage in Beijing means more opportunities to come.
"As a small company from a place with less than 200,000 residents, on the stage here we feel like small fish in a big pond," she said. "But if there are opportunities for us in China, why not give it a go?"
(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2018)