by Zhu Junqing, Wang Yachen
ALEPPO, Syria/ TIANJIN, China, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Ameer Anis, a Syrian man living in war-tortured Aleppo, is squatting atop a large area of soap solidified from olive liquid and marking logos on each small piece.
He is following a traditional Syrian method of producing handmade soaps.
The organic and all natural products will be delivered to China, where environmental-friendly commodities are getting more popular among consumers and craftsmanship prized.
"My boss told me that the next batch of products will soon be transported to China," said the 32-year-old.
Last year, about eight tons of handmade soap, almost one fifth of his factory's output, were ordered by a Chinese businessman Li Jianwei, who owns a trading firm specializing in businesses with Arab countries.
Li began his business in 1989 after graduating from university as an Arabic language major. "Since trade between China and the Arab world is booming, especially after the Belt & Road Initiative was proposed, business is robust."
The Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient Silk Road trade routes.
Last year Li paid an advanced deposit to guarantee 2017 orders.
"With the order, the workers' wages can be guaranteed," Ameer said.
In many parts of the war-ridden country, business continues as usual though lives are at risk. Ameer recalled his own life threatening experience, a common occurance for those still living in hard-hit Aleppo.
One day in June he drove a truck filled with nearly one ton of soap to a port in Lattakia where the cargo would be shipped to China. A roadside bomb exploded, forcing Ameer to suddenly steer away. Fortunately, he escaped injury and his cargo was unscathed.
Like other Aleppo residents, Ameer and his family have to be mindful of stray bullets and artillery fire. Many in the devestated city have no shelter to shield themselves from gunfire.
Syrian rebels captured eastern Aleppo in 2012. Syrian government troops and allied forces retook it recently in a massive offensive.
Goods from the battlefield in Syria are strictly inspected in China before being unleashed on the market.
"It is not surprising to find a small piece of shell fragment inside the soap from a rain of bullets," Li said.
With years of contact with the people of the Middle East, Li says the cultures of China and the Arab world share plenty in common. He sees a number of business opportunities as a result.
He plans to open an Arab restaurant in the northern Chinese metropolis of Tianjin and has invited a Syrian man in his 20s to work as the chef.
Li recalls Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at the headquarters of the Arab League last year, during which the president said the serendipity between China and the Middle East is unique. Something Li knows all too well.