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He’s been lauded by none other than Chinese President Xi Jinping; he’s lent his heart and soul to Hainan’s offshore duty free sector and the island’s Free Trade Port development programme; and he has given something a whole lot more personal and important to China.
Meet Ruslan Tulenov (鲁斯兰), who for many in travel retail is the very human face of this May’s hugely successful China International Consumer Products Expo (Hainan Expo).
Ruslan has made quite an impression in his role as Global Media Officer & Senior Supervisor at Hainan Provincial Bureau of International Economic Development (Hainan IEDB), a government body that he has worked for since August 2019.
As his name suggests, Ruslan is not Chinese, he is from Kazakhstan. The combination of his nationality and his contribution to China prompted a glowing article recently in highly influential Chinese state media, Global Times, headlined ‘Blue Sky’ and ‘Panda Blood’ — A Young Kazakh Man Lauded by President Xi Jinping.
It begins like this: What kind of images does ‘blue sky’ evoke? A beautiful scenery, broad-mindedness, or a promising future? For Ruslan, a handsome young Kazakh student in China, it means something special. Ruslan’s Chinese name is Lu Silan, and his microblog ID is ‘Ruslan Blue Sky’. In China, he is fondly called Mr. Blue Sky. With his sincere smile, selfless dedication, and goodwill toward the Chinese people, this name cannot be more fitting.
The article relates how Ruslan came to China at the age of 17 to study Chinese, having fostered a strong interest in the nation’s culture during his childhood, watching Chinese TV series Journey to the West.
While studying at Hainan University, he donated blood for the first time, discovering that he had the rare blood type o Rh. So rare in China that just 0.1% to 0.3% of the 1.4 billion population has it, giving rise to the type being referred to as ‘panda blood’. Local RH negative blood banks are often in urgent need of supplies.
Ruslan began making twice-yearly blood donations. Over the next eight years, Global Times reports, he has donated over 5,000 millilitres of blood. Upon learning about a girl who required o Rh negative blood after a car accident in another province, he rushed to contact the relevant hospital, encouraging the young patient with a microblog post declaring ‘Mr. Blue Sky is here to help!’
Back in September 2013, President Xi Jinping delivered an historic speech at the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, outlining the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative for the first time. During his speech, he particularly noted Ruslan’s blood donations and expressed his appreciation, stating that it testified to the close bonds and brotherhood between the two peoples.
He called on the youth of both countries to become future envoys of friendship, and contribute youth and energy to the growth of China-Kazakhstan’s comprehensive strategic partnership.
“Indeed, Ruslan’s blood donation story is a testament to the friendship between the two peoples,” the article concludes. “It will inspire more and more young people from both China and Kazakhstan to carry forward the bilateral friendship.”
Nice story isn’t it? I have worked closely with Ruslan since mid-2020 when Hainan IEDB set about the hugely challenging (some would say impossible) task of organising a physical Expo in Haikou amid a raging global pandemic. From the start, Ruslan and the Hainan IEDB team, led by the inspirational Director General Han Shengjian, were determined to defy the sceptics.
And they did. The event was a triumph, attracting some 2,500 brands (Chinese and international) as exhibitors and around 100,000 visitors.
Speaking to me just after the Expo concluded, Ruslan said: “When we had the early phone calls, people were saying that maybe a physical Expo will be difficult.
“But we were strong on our positioning… our team of only 37 people achieved such a massive success. You know, with just 37 people, that is a pretty big pressure on our shoulders, but we were very strong. We believed. We were ambitious and we not only showed to the world but we also showed to ourselves that there is nothing impossible. Everything can be done if you think big and act fast and long term.”
Indeed. And anything is possible when you have Panda blood and Blue Sky thinking.
Footnote: Hainan IEDB is the Host of the Hainan Discovery zone at the forthcoming Virtual Travel Retail Expo (for which it is also acting as Chinese co-organiser). As reported, the Hainan Expo will be repeated in early 2022 – dates to be announced soon.