For most of Ding Ma’s life, he has been living in a sort of cycle going back and forth between living in China and Finland. Today he is using the knowledge he has gained about both countries to promote the cooperation in business and education between the Finnish South Karelia and China, Yle writes.
Ding Ma was born in China but at the age of 4, his family moved to the Turku region of Finland. Here he was placed in a Swedish kindergarten and therefore learned Swedish before Finnish. When Ding turned 6 his family send him to a boarding school in China. He returned to Finland at the age of 11 where he finished public school and high school.
He continued his studies at the Helsinki School of Economics. Here Ding Ma began longing for China again.
“I had an identity crisis and I wanted to find my roots. For this reason, I initially went to Beijing for a six-month exchange stay at Tsinghua University,” Ding Ma says.
His stay was however prolonged when he got an internship position at Finpro Oy a company that has specialized in promoting Finnish export abroad.
“China came into my life. I took my exam at Aalto University with a master’s degree in economics in 2013, whereafter I spent five years in total in China,” Ding Ma says.
In China, Ding Ma was for some time responsible for promoting Finland’s image in China working for the Finnish Consulate General in Shanghai.
In the beginning, the three things that the Chinese associated with Finland when you asked them was: Santa Claus, Kimi Räikkönen, and Angry Birds.
But in a similar study done three years later in 2016 people also answered that Finland represented a world-class educational- and innovation system and a society characterized by equality and openness. They also answered that Finland was one of the safest countries in the world.
It seemed that the work had paid off.
Settled in Finland
Today Ding Ma lives in Finland and has done so for four years.
“Since 2017 I have lived in Lappeenranta. I can upright say, that a sort of China quota has been maxed out for me,” Ding Ma explains.
Working to promote the relationship between China and Finland is valuable Ding Ma believes. The Chinese market is huge, and the Finnish economy is very much based on export and therefore he thinks that it’s important to think of China as a potential market.
“Despite that, it is a very competitive marked Finland has an advantage, especially within the technology sector. We should be able to use these advantages more as well as our trademarks like education and safety,” Ding Ma says.
Ding Ma also does a podcast for the people of the South Karelia union in which he tries to eradicate some stereotypes of China so that the Finnish people don’t think that all Chinese people are the same.