China’s leading entrepreneurs are finding community and support in an exclusive business group.
The China Entrepreneur Club is a Beijing-based organization that consists of 46 of China’s leading business people, as well as advisers like academics and politicians. The club counts several billionaires among its ranks, including Jack Ma, the head of the e-commerce giant Alibaba who is now believed to be the richest man in China, property tycoon Wang Jianlin, and Guo Guangchang, who has drawn comparisons to Warren Buffet.
Leadership expert Steve Tappin, the presenter of the BBC TV documentary China’s Billionaires’ Club, notes that there is “little else like it anywhere else in the world.”
“It’s very hard to imagine the top 50 CEOs in America or Europe happily getting together or going on foreign trips as a group,” Tappin tells BBC News.
The club’s members all hail from different industries, so competition among entrepreneurs is not a concern. The group has been active since 2006, and holds events regularly. Members of the club also take international trips to introduce themselves to world leaders interested in learning more about China’s entrepreneurial enterprises.
Members also support each other during times of difficulty. Club member Charles Chao, chief executive of the Web giant Sina, describes this support as “beyond my expectation” and views it as one of the great perks of membership.
Membership is, however, a very exclusive affair. It is “extremely difficult” to join the club. Prospective members must have an exceptional business track record and must share the club’s values.
Liu Donghua, the club’s founder, said one of the primary reasons he formed the group was “to promote greater acceptance and understanding of the private sector.” When China first began to open up its economy in the 1980s, entrepreneurs “were often treated with suspicion,” a wariness that continues today, as Joe Baolin Zhou, chief executive of Bond Education, notes.
“There’s an old saying in our culture – there are no merchants or business people that are not cunning or sly,” Zhou says. “I still remember in the 1970s and 80s a lot of intelligent people would feel ashamed of becoming a business person.”
Billionaire and CEC member Huang Nubo adds that China’s entrepreneurs in the private sector “live a difficult life,” in spite of the extravagant wealth of many of the club’s members.
“They need to fight against huge market uncertainty,” Huang said.
image credit: flickr/ffrade