Did you know that Cockerill exported itself to China?
Russia is not the only country which the Baron de Sadoine visited during his retirement. He also set off for China, where he increased his contacts. To such an extent that in 1890, Zhang Zhi Dong, Viceroy of Hubei and of Hunan, wishes to embark on the construction of a massive steelmaking complex at Hanyang (opposite). To accomplish this task, he asks for the help of the Cockerill Company.
The factories which are constructed are immense and equipped with blast furnaces, Martin furnaces and Bessemer unit. Hundreds of tonnes of steel are produced every day. More than 1,500 Chinese workers, trained by Cockerill, work there in the same way as at Seraing. Belgians such as Emile Braive, Beunet and Ruppert succeed each other as Technical Director.
In July 1896, Leopold II invites Viceroy Li Hong Zhang to visit Belgium. During this official visit, the members of the Chinese delegation call in at the Cockerill factories. China wishes to modernize and establish a rail network worthy of its size. Two years later, the Belgians are awarded this mandate. Under the supervision of engineer Jean Jadot, no less than 1,214 km of rails are laid on Chinese soil during the seven years of works.
The rails are produced by the Hanyang steelworks but a large part of the equipment (locomotives, rolling stock, gantries) come out of the Seraing factories. This Chinese adventure also enables Cockerill to achieve a technical feat, that of constructing a bridge of more than 3 km in length over the Yellow River.