GUANGZHOU, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Chen Yongqiang owns a company with only 20 staff in a small Chinese town, but his business card has English on one side.
Two years ago, Chen established Leayol, a light manufacturing company in Guzhen Township under the jurisdiction of the city of Zhongshan in south China's Guangdong Province.
The company had a production value of more than 5 million yuan (791,000 U.S. dollars) last year.
"Although my company is small, we plan to further explore the markets along the Belt and Road," Chen said.
Leayol is among 25,000 lighting companies based in Guzhen, which covers an area of less than 48 square kilometers and has 150,000 permanent residents. The town welcomes one million business people from around the world every year.
Guzhen has benefited from foreign trade as China pushes forward the Belt and Road Initiative, which is aimed at building trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes to seek common development and prosperity.
"The initiative brings new opportunities for small and micro manufacturers," said Ou Decheng, deputy chairman of the Zhongshan lighting and electric appliances association.
About 30 percent of the lighting products manufactured in Zhongshan are exported, and the proportion has been rising in recent years, Ou said.
Dubbed China's "Lighting Capital," Guzhen rivals international lighting manufacturing centers such as Milan, Frankfurt, and Dallas.
Its products are sold to more than 130 countries and regions. The town's lighting industry has exceeded 100 billion yuan, accounting for more than 70 percent of China's total.
Zhu Yongqing worked in the industry in Guzhen for nine years before setting up a foreign trade company in 2014 to assist local small and micro-sized businesses.
The primary service of Zhu's company is organizing exhibitions in countries and regions along the Belt and Road.
"I want to provide a platform to help more companies transform from the current mode of 'basing sales on production' to 'basing production on sales,' which would be win-win for sellers and buyers," Zhu said.
With more businesses active in the international arena, 'Belt and Road' has become a common phrase in negotiations with foreign customers, said Zhang Diansheng, a market advisor.
China's foreign trade volume rose 14.2 percent to 27.79 trillion yuan in 2017, ending a two year decline, according to the General Administration of Customs.
The National Bureau of Statistics said China's trade with the countries along the Belt and Road rose to about 7.4 trillion yuan last year.
As most companies in Guzhen are small and micro-sized businesses, they are attempting a strategy of engaging as a group to go global.
"We used to join foreign exhibitions in groups of two or three, but it's time-consuming and inefficient. Like looking for a needle in a haystack," said Chen.
Now, the companies work together as an alliance, renting venues, inviting targeted guests, and holding exhibitions in foreign countries, Chen added. "It saves time and effort."
China has the largest lighting industry and the most complete industrial chain, said Wang Yongfu, CEO of an alliance of 11 companies.
"We formed this alliance to sell our designs globally instead of just our products, therefore changing our roles as traditional equipment manufacturers," Wang said.