Monday, April 1, 2013

It is a true story of rags to riches Chinese style. Yes, in a country that is known for its single leaders and communism, there are a few that really prosper and even more amazing there is a very rich person who happens to be a woman in China. We must remember that we are talking about a region that has risen to be the second greatest world power in the last 30 years. She is a real estate mogul and her name is Zhang Xin. She is the fifth richest self-made billionaire woman in the world.
Zhang breaks every stereotype we think of when we always view China as being uncreative, repressive and as far away as you can get from the American dream. In fact with all her billions of dollars she still craves democracy the most for her country probably because she learned everything she knows from working on Wall Street and getting the best education Britain offers. She took all her western knowledge and used her skills in her home town and scooped up lots of money in China.
She and her husband Pan Shiyi have built some of Beijing's most iconic buildings in the world. Wherever you look, you can see the company logo called Soho; something like seeing a Trump building seemingly in every large city in north-east America labeled after our American millionaire developer. As a developer she pays special attention to design so her skyscrapers are looking very curvy and not just like tall boxes. There has been over building in China as its citizens keep investing in real estate. Zhang limits herself to only building office buildings and only in Beijing and Shang high.
Her business instincts are usually right and she is now a celebrity in China. When each of her new buildings are completed, it can look like a hollywood premier from all the promotion. She is 47 years old and remains with a clear focus on business despite her new found celebrity. Her own story proves that China is the new land of opportunity. There are more self made billionaires in China now than in any other place in the world.
Times have changed. She was born during the cultural revolution when Mao Tse Tung brutally punished all the capitalists and intellectuals who he describes as dogs. Zhang experienced first hand suffering from the Communist regime. Her parents were intellectuals, university graduates and were sent to the countryside to farm with little or no tools to make a living.
Now you can call it the revenge of the running dogs because the children are now the running capitalists. When she was 8 years old her mother was allowed to return to Beijing and found work as a translator. They were destitute and homeless forced to sleep in a office. When Zhang was 14 she went to Hong Kong to find work and worked the assembly line as a sweat shop girl putting chips into phones for 5 years.
She saved enough money to buy a one way ticket to London and worked in a Fish and Chips shop while learning English and getting used to how different westerners looked and acted. Her story should be made into a movie this is so bizarre. It was the most fearful and lonely but most courageous part of her life. She became sociable and ended up getting a job at Goldman Sachs.
From crying and alone she went to school, learned English which led to a scholarship to the University of Sussex to a Masters Degree in Economics from Cambridge. It was 1992 and her timing was perfect since China by then was opening markets to foreign investors. Goldman Sachs sent her back to China to look for opportunities but she was unhappy in the world of investment banking.
She met her husband there who was investing in real-estate in China and partnered up with him. Together they envisioned creating the Manhattan of Beijing. He never left China while she was all over America and Britain. Now there is a sea of offices that they built together bigger and wider than Manhattan going back to the past 19 years of construction.
They decided to get married 4 days after they met. She left Goldman and hasn’t had time to look back. He came from one of the poorest provinces in China and without any investors managed to get things going. Mixing business ideas from the east and west was not easy and they fought constantly about projects. She even left for awhile and returned to England only to realize that he was prospering and needed her help that brought them to be the billionaires they are today now with 2 boys of their own.
He concentrates on everything inside China while she uses her Wall Street knowledge to raise money abroad and hires the world’s best architects. This story sounds like it should be on the Oprah show except this girl has more money than Oprah. Soho is a company with 10 Billion dollars in assets.

No comments:

Post a Comment