The rise of Chinas entrepreneurs

The rise of Chinas entrepreneurs

China's admittance to the prestigious World Trade Organisation is a milestone in terms of the growth of its economy. In many ways, this is the culmination of the so-called ‘open door policy' launched by the reformist leader of the Chinese Communist Party, the late Deng Xiaoping, back in 1978. After many years in economic isolation in the global sense, China had begun a remorseless journey towards the situation it now finds itself in: at the forefront of the world's trading superpowers.

What this newfound status has meant is that the stage is now set for China to produce an ever-expanding list of entrepreneurs; a band of vibrant, high-achieving Chinese individuals, fuelled with the drive to make the most of the vast economic potential of this nation. In fact, over the previous two decades millions of such entrepreneurs have emerged in China.

One of the most decisive factors behind this phenomenon has been the fact that the 300,000 state-owned enterprises were simply unable to compete with the explosion in private commercial ventures once China was outside the official trading system. Many of the state-owned industries will either fall by the wayside, or be absorbed into the much healthier private trading companies.

While the Communist Party's position has never been in any doubt, it will greatly benefit from the successful integration of China into the global business community. A key to this continuing economic success is the rise of the Chinese entrepreneurs. The Party has developed a pragmatic philosophy in the face of the rampant free market forces which have been gathering apace in this part of the world for some time now. If a handful of individuals can be unleashed to accumulate considerable wealth, then their trailblazing activities will be a beacon of inspiration that will lead the way for economic development throughout the rest of the nation.

The difference between the Chinese outlook and those of their counterparts in the United States of America, Western Europe, Russia and the capitalist countries of Asia is the fact that business leaders prefer to maintain a much lower profile, shunning the publicity that might see an American entrepreneur appearing on the cover of Time magazine or being interviewed on prime-time chat shows. One senior Chinese government official stated that the Chinese should always view entrepreneur success stories as part of the overall process, not just in terms of their personal charisma.

The healthy state of China's health industry

The healthy state of China's health industry

Overseen by the Ministry of Health, China's population of 1,354,000,000 enjoy a vigorous public health policy, based on preventative medicine, hygiene and good nutritional awareness. Historically, although free public health has waned since the days of the people's communes, the rise in private healthcare has led to considerable improvements in the quality of China's health services. Since the late 1940s, the national life expectancy has risen every year, currently standing at 74.8 years, while the infant mortality rate has decreased sharply over the same period.

The combination of market-driven policies and state control has led to an ever improving health status for the overall Chinese population. While there is no room for complacency, with sections of society still requiring particular attention, the signs are that 2013 will show continual improvements and innovations in healthcare. Four years ago there was a radical health care reform which, coupled with the twelfth Five Year Plan, really pushed for the modernisation of the Chinese health structure in three particular areas:-

• to reform the hospital system, • to provide universal basic insurance coverage, and • to ensure the promotion of essential medicine treatment.

Part of this comprehensive health drive is to provide the Chinese people with universal healthcare by 2020. This ambitious target has led to the vast mobilisation and upgrading of the entire pharmaceutical industry, as well as providing immense opportunities for both domestic and foreign companies to embrace this challenge. The government are also determined to transform the industry from a focus on generic drugs to becoming dedicated to radical innovation, with the emphasis on becoming amongst the world's leading champions of pharmaceutical solutions.

This will have a knock-on effect, as the concerted strive to remain at the forefront of drugs technology will lead to strong pharmaceutical supply lines, and the increasing funding of bold medical research. During this time Chinese medicine will also be making strenuous efforts to attain quality levels that are compatible with global standards.

These growth opportunities will continue to attract multinationals who will see the increasing benefits for extending their footprint in China. This situation is set to continue into the immediate future and on into the next few decades. China has the potential to become one of the leaders of pharmaceutical research in the world.

Recommended reading about the Chinese economy

Recommended reading about the Chinese economy

If you are looking for an authoritative but generally easily digestible book focusing on the Chinese economy, then a recommended read is Barry J Naughton's ‘The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth'. This provides an overarching study of the contemporary Chinese economy by someone who is an expert on the subject. Naughton offers considerable coverage, providing an engaging look into the way that this superpower's economy has evolved since 1949. Rather than simply reiterating facts which can be gleaned elsewhere, the author offers genuinely original insights based on strong research.

This book is to be recommended as an essential purchase for anyone with more than just a passing interest in the economy of China and the way it has developed from a mostly rural and agrarian structure into one of the world's largest and most technologically innovative. It would be suitable for students, scholars, academics and policymakers, but especially anyone in the business community. There are background chapters on China's pre-1949 economy, focusing on industrialisation, reform and the many complicated sociological factors that have been influencing the development of this market ever since.

The growth of international trade and foreign investment is given particular attention, as is the introduction of macro-economic cycles within the economy. Naughton's study also analyses that way the Chinese economy has developed in tandem with global trends. The book places China's ever-evolving economic status and market strength in the context of the growth of other advanced industrial countries, such as Japan and United States of America. It demonstrates how China's relationship with Western nations, historically categorise by mistrust on both sites, has evolved into something altogether more dynamic.

It is a complex subject matter, but one that has been changing for some time and continues to change as Chinese markets adapt to the myriad challenges of the 21st century. As this colourful nation becomes an increasingly key player in the global stage, interest in this subject will grow exponentially. This excellent study deserves to be regarded as one of the authoritative books on the topic, and will help to develop understanding of the many complex strands that weave together to form the the economy of the world's next superpower.

‘The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth', published by MIT Press, 2007. ISBN 0262140950, 9780262140959. 528 pages.

The author, Barry Naughton, is Professor of Chinese Economy and Sokwanlok Chair of Chinese International Affairs at the University of California, San Diego.

Profile of Rong Yiren, economic visionary

Profile of Rong Yiren, economic visionary

Profile of Rong Yiren, economic visionary

Rony Yiren, nicknamed the ‘Red Capitalist', was one of the key players in the inexorable shift of the Chinese economy from an inwardly-focussed ‘sleeping giant' into one of the world's leading trading superpower s. As the nation's Vice President of China for much of the 1990s, he oversaw a crucial transition period for China.

Born in 1916 in Wuxi, near Shanghai, both his father and uncle were founders of a successful cotton mill. He was educated at St John's University, a Christian institute that was widely regarded as one of China's finest and most prestigious colleges. He was still in his 20s when he was given full responsibility for the running of all the 24 mills of the family business.

There followed a tumultuous period for China, as the old shackles were thrown off and Civil War between rival political factions, Communist and Nationalist, engulfed the country. Unlike most of the business community who decided to either take exile alongside the fleeing Nationalist government in Taiwan, or seek refuge in the British protectorate of Hong Kong, Rong's family remained loyal to China. They maintained their private business until 1956, when commercial enterprises were nationalised. His family received a compensation fee of around $6 million. A year later Rong was appointed vice-mayor of Shanghai, before being promoted to the position of economic advisor for the Communist Party.

There followed a difficult period, with radical youth groups such as the Red Guards denouncing everyone they suspected of harbouring loyalties to the old Nationalist regime. Rong was condemned as being one of these capitalist sympathisers, losing much of his personal wealth and even receiving death threats. He was demoted to the status of a janitor for a while. However, he received protection from Zhou Enlai, the First Premier of the People's Republic, and was shielded from further mistreatment.

Upon the death of Mao Zedong and the conclusion of the so-called Cultural Revolution, Rong became an advisor during the period of China's economic opening, instigated by Deng Xiaoping, the reformist leader of the Communist Party. In the late 1970s China truly began to explore new and radical ways of socialist thinking. The new revolutionary aim was to combine the historic aspirations of catering to the needs of all the people with the potential for development offered by entering the free market. From this moment, China was open for business for Western enterprises who were hungry for investment opportunities.

Rong risked further political ostracising in 1989 when he suggested the Party leadership negotiate with the disaffected students staging demonstration in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. In the end, the crisis passed and he was appointed to the ceremonial post of China's Vice President in 1993. Five years later, Rong retired, leaving a hugely influential legacy for his nation. Unfortunately the great economic visionary died in October 2005.

As well as his political nous in assisting with China's economic modernisation, his impact on its business world was immense. He was listed as one of the richest men in Asia and his family fortune is estimated at around $1.9 billion.