-by Ernie Diaz
It’s good to be proven wrong, but still have your point made. At every historic Chinese calamity, no matter how the people suffered, women suffered worse. Post-China liberation, with each stride ahead, women walked a respectful five steps behind. Always the model worker, never the commune leader, always the factory-line jobber, never the foreman. Always the head accountant, never the manager.
You can argue the east-west balance of feminism until CCTV moderator Tian Wei snaps her pencil. You can point to discrimination in the Chinese workplace and peasant village. But don’t deny that Chinese women are grabbing power wherever it’s left unguarded, and that kind of power waits in the marketplace. No matter how governments talk about female-equalizing policies, money will always talk louder.
So CEX is vindicated. Despite sobbing on cue whenever the subject of the third-class Chinese woman comes up, we maintain that she is her country’s largest reserve of under-utilized capacity. Yes, women make up half of university enrollment and household income now, according to uber-wonk Shaun Rein. More encouraging, however, are the numbers of Chinese female business women turning brains and guts into fortunes, into power and freedom.
China is the expat’s to bash, not any old lao wai’s. So for the westerner with unexamined, spoon-fed opinions about this authoritarian regime we live under, whose tune we all march to, how nice to throw in his face 34% of China’s senior management posts, compared to a world-wide 20%. Better yet, give him He Yongzhi. Chongqing in 1982 saw her with neither guanxi nor a marketing budget, just a tiny sidewalk hotpot joint in a city packed with them. She invented the yin-yang hotpot, divided so that the people who need it hot could sit at the same table with weirdos. OK, whether or not she invented it, she surely gave birth to the Little Swan chain, since grown into a golden goose that lays hot-sauce spinoffs and craps hotels.
Sequoia is on board, hoping to ride the swan to the land of unseemly rates of return. He could well turn billionaire this year with the IPO, and if she does, she’ll be increasing China’s self-made female billionaire club to eight. That’s the diamond core of a female business elite comprising one tenth the nation’s richest business people. Yes, that’s a huge percentage, averaged globally. If it makes you feel any better, know that it has nothing to do with socialist planning, and everything to do with the unalloyed steel of the Chinese female character, tempered then hammered on a Confucian anvil.
Look at them yoyos – that’s the way you do it. You build your towers in the CBD. Better start where you are though, and for billionairess Wu Yajun, worth a Gatesian 3.9 to the ninth power, the start was Chongqing. Right, hometown of He Yongzhi and her Little Swan. Both are hopefully hastening the day when Chongqing women aren’t called “spicy beauties” but rather “Yes, Boss.”
China’s richest woman surely has a brain capable of going both macro and micromanagement , spreadsheet to tough decision over and over, with Caterpillar reliability, yet that brain is no polished product of a slick MBA program. The larger lobes are nerd-oriented, you notice, as you review her science degrees, her time as a South Weekend reporter, her admission that she spent high school secretly reading novels in class and still acing the tests. So we’ll withdraw the “yoyo” comment, at least in Wu’s case.
Whatever she learned about making properties rain cash flow while working in a meter factory, later on a newspaper, was surely not laid out for her. Turning her apartments into apartment buildings into developments into Longfor Properties couldn’t have come from that background. We’ll reckon it’s the karma of who-knows-how-many Wu taitais who ran domestic affairs with a ruthless efficiency that would have made them taipans, had they been allowed loose on the market. Who would have left any male scholar less some face, had they been allowed into imperial examinations.
Very well, as long as our point is made about the power of a Chinese woman to make serious cake, and the environment they have to do it in, we’ll stop working melodrama into the story of someone who’s business partners with Ping An Insurance, the Singaporean government, has more money than God, and is not yet 50. Instead, we’ll shine a brief spotlight on the rest of the Chinese billionairess club.
She sports about as Xiu Li Hawken, but whatevs. Her mama call her Dai Xiu Li; we gonna call her Dai Xiu Li. That’s the thing with Hong Kong folks like “Hawken” – they go English with a vengeance. Hawken’s shares in Renhe Commercial Holdings are worth close to two-and-a-half billion, built on a foundation of underground shopping centers. Not bad for a Chinese lit major.
Another Hong Kong tycoon, worth 2.1 billion from a controlling stake in Huabao International. What’s the Huabao empire based on? Tobacco flavoring – mmmm, tobacco flavoring.
Here’s one of the club whose rise to super-pockets seems a tad more logical. Econ Master’s from Cambridge, vetted at Goldman Sachs, and Pan Shiyi as a husband to co-found the mighty mighty SOHO empire.
Ms Cheung took Deng’s mandate for people to start making paper literally. She set up a paper-recycling company with four thousand bucks back in 1985, way before sustainability was hip, and turned it into a close-to two billion dollar monster known as Nine Dragons.
Nothing humble or paper-based about Chan’s fortune, a property-development cash cow fattened up by Regent after Rolex after Lamborghini tenancy deal. She’s just over the billion mark, but avoids vulgar displays of wealth while curating museums and doing diplomacy work for the Smithsonian.
Now what do you, or Lei Jiufang, do with an advanced degree in physics? Of course – start peddling Tibetan medicine! Qizheng Tibetan Medicine specializes in ointments, plasters, and powders for taking away pain and congestion. Ms Lei’s stock trades on the Shenzhen floor at 46 times earnings, give or take. Obviously it ain’t the business – it’s the business woman.