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Date:2021-06-24 Font Size
We Come When They Flee the Place

When we talk about Iraq, war, riots and terrorist attacks always come to the mind of the vast majority of us. In recent decades, the flames of war has plunged Iraq into chaos, with sectarian conflicts, frequent terrorist attacks, common thefts and robberies, and uncontrolled gunfire. Chen Baoqi never thought that these scenes, which he had only seen on the Internet, would one day be so close to him. 

The 8-day stay in Iraq still strikes a chord in Chen Baoqi's mind when he looks back on these days.

One day in early 2018, Chen Baoqi suddenly received a notice, asking him to go to Iraq to carry out commissioning for the local exported 12VC generator set. Although he had already envisioned various unknown situations at the beginning of his responsibility for the technical services in the Middle East, he still felt that this was "beyond the reach" when he was told that he would have to go to Iraq on a business trip.

"I never think that I would go to any country other than Turkey, Lebanon and UAE, let alone such a turbulent country." As far as Chen knew, Yuchai had never assigned any employee to Iraq on a business trip before.

In recent years, Yuchai has rapidly dominated the marine & G-drive engine market in China by virtue of its technical advantages in the field of engines, and has also been seeking new breakthroughs in overseas market. As a result of war, Iraq has suffered from a severe damage in its electric power industry, with insufficient power generation, obsolete power grids and high rate of line loss. Restoration of the equipment and facilities will require the supply of a large number of generator sets. Yuchai, which has been deeply engaged in the overseas market for many years, has long been fixing its eyes on this target and has successfully exported several YC12VC engines to Iraq.

"We'll be where our customers need us to be." Despite concerns, Chen still decided to be Yuchai's "first mover" and planned to make adequate preparations for his trip in Iraq.

Although Chen had already made up his mind, he could not maintain a sense of calm. During that period of time, he could not help imagining the scene of gunfire. Considering the high risk during the trip, Chen planned to purchase personal accident insurance. "In case of an accident, at least my family can obtain some compensation." However, neither travel companies nor insurance companies are willing to accept his request by reason of "too big risks as Iraq is a war-torn country". Later, he learned that the OEM who went to Iraq with him had a partnership with an insurance company, and finally acquired an insurance policy with the coverage of RMB 200,000 from this insurance company.

On the weekend before his departure, Chen went back to his hometown in Beihai, had a meal made by his mother and chatted with his parents. On the night he lived at home, he put his salary card and a note with the bank card password under the pillow, and then called his brother working in Guangzhou to tell him about his business trip to Iraq and the bank card, and entrusted his brother with the family affairs. "Don't worry about me. Iraq may not always be in chaos. I'll be fine." Chen comforted his brother and also cheered himself up. His mindset gradually became positive.

One day in May, Chen took his luggage case full of engine parts, met with the OEM from Jiangsu and set off for Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, more than 6,000 kilometers away. To adjust to jet lag, he took a late night flight. As the plane flew smoothly over a sea of clouds shrouded in darkness and got closer to its destination, Chen felt a little nervous. Sitting next to him were two Chinese men in the oil industry who had been stationed in Iraq for a long time, Chen asked these two senior "Iraqi visitors" for advice.

To his surprise, although these two "senior visitors" spent half of the year in Iraq, they never went out during their stay in Iraq. "When we arrive at the airport, the company will assign armed men with guns to drive us to the base where we are stationed by a bulletproof car, and then directly drive us to the airport when it's time for us to return home. We are never allowed to go out during that period of time." After hearing those words, Chen had a heavier heart. Fortunately, he is an optimist. After some mental struggle, he tried not to think too much about his upcoming trip, as he believed that "everything would be fine". 

The plane arrived at Baghdad International Airport at noon the next day. Due to limited resources, Chen and the OEM took an ordinary SUV provided by the local client in Baghdad to the hotel.

After discussion with the client and the OEM, they decided to first purchase cables, wrenches and some other tools required for commissioning from the industrial market in downtown Baghdad. That afternoon, the client assigned three of its local employees to protect Chen and his companions. "Before we leave, they specifically tell us that we must walk among the three of them and must not walk around."

Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, is the economic and trade center of West Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Sacred mosques and the statues of various characters described in the "Arabian Nights" can be found everywhere, giving people a sense of primitive simplicity and magic in such a modern city. However, beneath the peace, there have been countless wars taking the lives of many people.

At the corner of the intersection, Chen and his companions suddenly saw a crowd of people running towards them. The street was suddenly congested, accompanied by honking and yaup. The atmosphere became extremely tense. "Is there a riot?!", Chen asked while holding the OEM's arm. Later, it's turned out to be a false alarm. In fact, there was an armor cash carrier that was going to pass through this intersection. Due to frequent occurrence of attacks and robberies against armor cash carriers, the policemen in charge of cash transport would evacuate all pedestrians on the road to give way to the armor cash carrier, so as to reduce the risk.


We didn't dare to stay long in the industrial market. We quickly purchased the tools and accessories, and then bought some instant noodles and fruits for dinner at the shops nearby, and rushed back to the hotel.


At 5:00 a.m. the next morning, Chen and the OEM, accompanied by the client and a security officer with gun, took the SUV to the Baiji Water Treatment Plant, the commissioning site of the generator set. Baiji is an important oil town in Iraq, located between the two ISIS (extremist terrorist organization) controlled bases of Tikrit and Mosul, more than 250 km from Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. Several years ago, Baiji suffered from suicide attacks by extremists and was occupied by northern extremist organization. It was reclaimed a few months ago. The Baiji Water Treatment Plant is a project introduced by the United Nations for the purpose of infrastructure restoration and reconstruction. Despite this, robberies and unprovoked attacks by terrorists occurred frequently on the road from Baghdad to Baiji.


As dawn broke, the car pulled out of downtown Baghdad. There was a scene of devastation everywhere along the road. Chen spent the longest 6 hours ever.


Along the road about a few kilometers from Baghdad, ruins as a result of bombing could be seen everywhere, with hardly a complete building. The remnants of the buildings were full of bullet holes, and the road was potholed. Original residents had fled their home, and a very few vehicles traveled on the road. All these showed a desolate scene left by war. There were many checkpoints along the road, especially the section close to the capital. Watchtowers and armed forces with machine guns could be seen almost every one kilometer.


Except necessary communication on safety matters, everyone in the car kept silent and said nothing, listening to the happenings outside the car. For the OEM, this was not the first visit to Iraq. He told Chen that "Remember the phone number of the Chinese Embassy in Iraq. Don't try to fight if you are attacked by any terrorists or detained by the army. Play by ear to survive." Chen nodded and said yes. Every time they arrived at a checkpoint, Chen felt very nervous, watching the client answering questions in a local language he could not understand and praying for successful passage.


The Baiji Water Treatment Plant is 250 km away from Baghdad, and it originally takes 3 hours by car. Due to frequent checks on the way, it took 6 hours to reach the Baiji Water Treatment Plant. Fortunately, they had a smooth ride without too many unforeseen circumstances, except that the inspectors at one checkpoint attempted to forcibly seize their passports.


After passing through the last checkpoint at the gate of the Baiji Water Treatment Plant, Chen and his companions, accompanied by two armed vehicles, entered the plant area.


At about 12:00 noon, after communication with the personnel of the water treatment plant, Chen and the OEM immediately started to check the operating environment of the unit, the installation of the engine, as well as the supporting engine oil, coolant and diesel oil of the unit. In Baiji, it was hot afternoon in the sun. The guys had to carry mufflers and exhaust pipes weighing more than 50kg for installation and commissioning. The blowing hot air made them thirsty and uncomfortable.


Before his departure, Chen had carefully sorted out the possible problems based on his previous experience in commissioning, and prepared the solutions and tools required for different commissioning problems as far as possible in advance, so everything went well in the actual operation process. At about 5:00 p.m., Chen and the OEM finally successfully completed the commissioning of the generator in one process, and delivered the generator set to the water treatment plant before dark. At the same time, Chen also told the user some precautions for maintenance. The user was moved by Chen and the OEM for their dedicated work, and said: "We need to carry out a large number of reconstruction works and require many generator sets in the future. We will give priority to your products."


On the way back, Chen and his companion encountered a sandstorm that turned the sky earthy yellow. Their car was swept by sand and dust, and can only creep forward in the chaos of sand and dust. Despite the sandstorm, they were not filled with fear as they were before, "It is more dangerous to drive at night than during the day, but it now becomes safer with the cover of the sandstorm, and extremists may not launch an attack at such a moment." As they hurried to get back to Baghdad, their car crashed onto the sand pile on the roadside several times due to the low visibility. In Chen's eyes, this minor failure did not deserve mentioning.


When Chen and his companions got back to Baghdad to check in at another hotel, their check-in request was directly refused by the receptionist after the receptionist learned that they came back from Baiji. This is because the receptionist thought that anyone who came back from Baiji was dangerous. The client had to communicate with the manager of the hotel, and finally the manager reluctantly approved their stay.


"Do not call on me when you guys go to Baiji again in the future." The client said with a fear after the event. Although the client is a native of Baghdad, he has never been to the treatment plant since Baiji was brought under control in 2015. As a native Iraqi, the client was fully responsible for the safety checks along the way, and therefore suffered from great mental stress.


"The local people dared not to go back to their hometown, and here we are!" Everyone breathed a sigh of relief after returning to the hotel, and the OEM joked with them.


Yes, where there is market demand, there are Yuchai engines and Yuchai services!


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