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A Finn's Footprints in China


Text by Zhou Jin Photographs by Wan Quan

For years, his friends have been delighted to know him, and were always happy when he called to say, “I just bought some fresh salmon. Why don’t you come by my little kitchen this weekend?”

Mikko Rautio from Finland works as chief representative of Finnair China. Although his motherland ranks first in the world for per capita coffee consumption, he has more to say about wine.

“My love for wine comes from working for Finnair,” explains Rautio. “Some mistakenly attribute the airline’s good reputation for in-flight food and wine to me. Really, it just reflects the airline’s great choices in brands. I’ve personally purchased a lot of wine from the company, which has further fueled my interest.”

Despite his exotic face, Rautio speaks fluent Mandarin with a strong Beijing accent. If not face-to-face, he can be easily mistaken for a Beijing native.

A Legendary Life

Mikko Rautio’s life has caused him to be in the spotlight for much of the time. As a foreigner living in China, Rautio has experienced many of the country’s historic events first-hand, including the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the economic reform and opening-up starting in 1978, and the country’s recent dramatic progress.

Rautio came to China with his parents in 1956 when he was only three years old. His father taught at Beijing Normal University while his mother worked as a translator for China Pictorial.

“I was 13 when the Cultural Revolution began,” Rautio recalls. “I sat through three days and nights on a train to Guangzhou with many other youngsters. My parents realized that they couldn’t stop me from traveling, so they put a note with my home address in my pocket in hopes of staying informed in case I ran into trouble.”

Rautio went back to Finland at the age of 21 to serve in the military, and he permanently returned to China in 1987 to open a Beijing office for Finnair. Before then, he alternated between living in China and Finland for several years, working for a variety of companies, including his country’s most famous global brand, Nokia.

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