Meet Chen Anzhi, China’s Tony Robbins
At the New Republic, Christopher Beam tells the story of China’s most successful motivational speaker Chen Anzhi, who teaches people how become super-rich within ten years:
Chen Anzhi, who also goes by Steve Chen, is practically a household name in China. His books and CDs line airport shelves, with titles like The Biggest Secrets of Success, Diamond Success Methods, Super Success Studies Action Handbook, and Success for Kids. He tours constantly, holding three-day conferences where newbies can hear an introductory lecture and enlist as one of his “disciples.” For 20,000 yuan ($3,207), students can attend four basic courses over a year. An “entry-level disciple” pays 250,000 yuan ($40,080) to join Chen’s “private club” of 400 followers; an “ultimate disciple” pays one million yuan ($160,576) to have Chen as life coach for life. According to his spokesperson, his students number more than 32 million. This has made him the grandfather of the Chinese self-help industry—which is booming, thanks to 30 years of rapidly rising incomes and even more rapidly rising status anxiety. If you’re not rich, the stats imply, you’re doing it wrong.
Chen, who is 46, discovered motivational speaking when he was living in California in the mid-’80s. His parents had sent him to the United States from Taiwan when he was 14. After high school, he enrolled at Pepperdine University and, according to his own legend, worked 18 different jobs—including serving food at Panda Express—before a friend took him to a lecture by Tony Robbins, the silver-tongued life coach who was already a national phenomenon.
[...] Chen was among the millions who signed up for one of Robbins’s classes. “I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is awesome,’ ” Chen told me. “He walks his talk.” Chen dropped out of college to sell tapes and videos for Robbins’s company. Around 1990, he took a speaking job in Taiwan, and then, in 2000, he brought his act to mainland China.
The country had changed radically while he’d been in the United States—and, it turned out, was primed for his message. Between 1978 and 2012, average urban disposable income rose 71-fold. Onetime luxuries like TV sets have been replaced by a new vocabulary of status symbols, from Western suits to sports cars (both of which Chen collects). In 2010, China hit the milestone of one million millionaires. If billionaire entrepreneurs like Jack Ma (Alibaba) and Pony Ma (Tencent) personify the country’s post-1979 economic boom, Chen represents the other 1.2999999 billion Chinese people who see their achievements and think, “That could be me.” [...] [Source]