A new energy

By Liu Xiangrui (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-09-04

A US citizen comes to East China to help with clean-environment initiatives, Liu Xiangrui reports.

Since his first visit to China in the late 1990s, Robert Galyen has returned on business from time to time, most often to Shanghai.

Now, the 60-year-old energy expert from the United States is experiencing life in a new way in Ningde, a small city in East China's Fujian province, where he has lived for the past three years.

Galyen holds a master's degree in chemistry and has worked in the energy sector for nearly four decades.

Since 2013, he has been the chief technical officer for Ningde-based Contemporary Amperex Technology and president of business development for Amperex Technology. The two firms specialize in clean technology for lithium-ion battery systems.

His job involves training Chinese employees, their customers and government officials with business and technical knowledge.

He also holds several titles in industry bodies.

"Many of the people working in this industry do not have prior experience because it's such a new business," Galyen says.

While his hectic schedule seems a contrast to the relatively slow pace of life in Ningde, Galyen says, he tries to appreciate the beauty of life there.

"Ningde is a small city, but we make the most of it," Galyen tells China Daily in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, where he came for a vacation.

It's difficult to separate the "technical" part of his life from the social part, he says, adding that he has many friends among his local colleagues.

They often invite him for leisure activities, such as mountain climbing and boating, and on trips to many tourist attractions in Fujian on weekends.

As one of the few Westerns in Ningde, Galyen, who is nearly 2 meters tall, often finds himself receiving a lot of attention from the local people.

"I've literally seen some guys almost wreck their motorcycles," he says.

Language remains the biggest barrier for him.

But some people he meets try to speak to him in the little English they know.

Galyen often takes walks in Ningde to exercise and relax, and usually goes to a nearby mall to enjoy the local cuisine and watch movies in his spare time.

He also spends his limited free time exploring Ningde and is surprised to find the city has many Catholic churches.

According to Galyen, living in Fujian has enticed him to swap coffee for tea.

He drinks almost daily three or four cups of Pu'er tea and tries to learn about local culture through its tea tradition.

Galyen says he has noticed the disparity in development between big Chinese cities and smaller ones, such as Ningde.

While he feels uncomfortable seeing how some local residents just cross the streets without paying heed to traffic rules or that some litter, Galyen is hopeful things will change.

"They are still learning to keep the environment. Any social change will just take a long time," he says.

Thanks to his professional experience, Galyen is often invited to address conferences in China and abroad.

Galyen, who also interacts with Chinese government officials at different levels, says he gets the impression all local governments want a cleaner environment and sustainable development.

Galyen received the title of "National Distinguished Expert" under the 1000 Talent Plan, a Chinese government-initiated global-talent program, and was invited to meet Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing last year.

He says Li's speech emphasized China's determination to enhance its environment.

A new energy

"It's good to hear the leadership ... give a speech about what the plan is," Galyen says.

"The primary reason for me to come to China was, I thought - and I still believe - I can make a difference in our ecology by making great battery systems here."

He works on improving storable-energy devices that reduce energy waste and pollution.

A fan of natural scenery and culture, Galyen, who has lived in different cities in his home country and has worked for large and small US corporations, says his earlier visits to China opened up his world.

"When I go out of Ningde, I try to take the time to see Chinese culture," he says.

He still vividly recalls his visit to the ethnically Tibetan regions in Qinghai province and how he enjoyed the local circle dancing.

"The people have a strong sense of their beliefs and traditions. They carry them down through action," he says.

"It's impressive for me to witness that firsthand."

Contact the writer at liuxiangrui@chinadaily.com.cn

 A new energy

US expert Robert Galyen says visiting China has opened up his world.Provided To China Daily

(China Daily 09/04/2015 page20)

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