Chinese Billionaire Zhang Xin: The Old Model Doesn’t Work Anymore

Published on Spiegel Online International, conducted by Bernhard Zand, Jan 22, 2016: … (she) discusses the recent market crash, the end of China’s building boom and why she views Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a role model for the wealthy … //

… SPIEGEL: In comparison, how did things start out for you?

  • Zhang: When we started out, we were among the first. Beijing had no and Shanghai had very few large buildings. At that time, it was all about building, building, building — and then selling, selling, selling. We were working like a manufacturer. Soon, however, we realized that land was running out in Beijing and Shanghai. So we started keeping our buildings, and managing and renting them out. We became landowners. That was the second act.  

SPIEGEL: And then?

  • Zhang: Then we moved on to Act 3. China’s economy became more complex. By now there is a large number of small- and medium-sized companies that work quite differently from big, state-owned enterprises. They don’t follow any long-term business plan and don’t rent office space for years to come. They start out and need an office right away, for a week, a month or half a year, and they want to be among other entrepreneurs like themselves. Our tenants now are companies like Uber, the taxi service,, China’s version of Groupon — and a large number of startups. These companies operate in a modern way, just like their customers: They go on the Internet, look for an offer and take it.

SPIEGEL: After the stock market turbulences, does it surprise you that people have started to worry?

  • Zhang: China has consistently surprised us. When I returned from the United States 20 years ago, it was unimaginable that we would end up where we are now. What China has achieved defies all logic. I credit this to the hard work and enterprising spirit of the Chinese people.

SPIEGEL: Can you give an example?

  • Zhang: I am a runner. Last October, there was a marathon here in Beijing. I didn’t participate this time, but friends told me that the run wasn’t prepared too well. The organizers had only arranged about three hours’ worth of food and water supplies. Most people don’t finish within three hours, however. Too bad for them — or so it seemed. In fact, however, even those finishing last were perfectly taken care of, particularly during the fourth and fifth hour when demand is highest.


  • Zhang: Because people along the route had realized that there was demand and quickly organized supply. That’s so Chinese. In a well-organized country like Germany, such a problem may not have arisen in the first place, but in China people immediately recognized an opportunity.

SPIEGEL: No one will doubt the diligence and flexibility of the Chinese, but will this be enough to avoid a hard landing of China’s economy? … //

… (full interview text).


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… and this – Riverdance:

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