Wearing a pink blazer and pulling luggage behind her with one hand, Sabina Popova walked into a coffee shop to give this interview before going to attend the Shenzhen Trade in Services Fair for international business cooperation on her country’s behalf. She is the head of the Shenzhen Office of the Bulgarian-Chinese Business Development Association and a representative of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, to Shenzhen.
Attending forums, meetings and exhibitions on cultural and business fields has become normal parts of her daily routine. “Attending these events enables me to make new contacts and seek more opportunities for the cooperation between Bulgaria and China,” she said.
According to Popova, the Bulgarian-Chinese Business Development Association was established in 2010 and its Shenzhen office was opened in 2014 after Shenzhen and Plovdiv became “sister cities.” As sister cities, they vow to commit special attention to advancing trade relations with each other.
When she first arrived in Shenzhen, Popova was amazed by the size of the city. “Shenzhen is so much bigger than European cities. When I walked out of the airport, I saw a sea of buildings that Europe doesn’t have,” Popova recalled.
Popova studied and practiced law in Bulgaria and Italy before she came to Shenzhen. Now as the head of the association’s Shenzhen Office, she has changed her focus and manages all business aspects for developing the relationship between Bulgaria and Shenzhen, including marketing, organizing business and cultural exhibitions like the upcoming China (Shenzhen) International Cultural Industries Fair, and keeping the Shenzhen government and people informed about the latest news and development in Bulgaria. Apart from that, she is also in charge of the official WeChat account of her association. “I am honored to be here as a Bulgarian representative and I appreciate that the city and its people welcome international delegates so warmly,” she said.
According to Popova, trade between Bulgaria and China mainly includes the import and export of foods like wine, rose products, yogurt, agricultural products, and the steel, automotive, and machinery industries. She mentioned that Bulgaria has changed some regulations in order to make it easier for Chinese investors to do business there and to facilitate bilateral trade in general.
“Trade between China and Bulgaria is growing and expanding, especially in cargo, tourism and transportation sectors. For example, Hainan Airlines recently won the bid for a concession to manage an airport in Plovdiv for 35 years,” she said, “An agricultural products logistics hub, the first of its kind under the '16+1' framework (meaning 16 Central and Eastern European Countries and China) was established last November in Plovdiv’s Trakia Economic Zone, the fastest growing economic zone in Bulgaria. The year 2019 is very important for Plovdiv because the city was designated as the European Capital of Culture, so we will expect an increase in tourism.”
Under her coordination, the prospect-seeking association she represents has achieved much in terms of promoting the relationship between Bulgaria and Shenzhen. In 2017, Shenzhen Polytechnic opened its first overseas vocational education center at Plovdiv University, one of the most prestigious universities in Europe. Besides, she also invited Bulgarian companies to the China High-tech Fair and China (Shenzhen) International Cultural Industries Fair held in Shenzhen. “The companies were very happy to be invited and very satisfied with the arrangement,” Popova said, adding that she has invited a Bulgarian animation studio and a writer of children’s books to this year’s cultural fair and said they are very excited about the event.
In the eyes of the 33-year-old, Shenzhen is a young and vibrant city with lots of opportunities. “Shenzhen never stops changing. Young people here are very ambitious, so it’s a good place to do business and to seek opportunities.”
For Popova life is never stopping in Shenzhen. She is very interested in Chinese culture and in her spare time she likes to paint, write Chinese calligraphy and perform tea ceremonies.