In China’s Frontier, a Fortune Is Made – Peter S. Goodman

From the Washington Post:

The Communist Party officials who run this grimy steel town on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia had big ambitions but little finance. So they called in one of China’s most successful capitalists, Yan Jiehe, and let him handle almost everything.

Yan used the same plan he has applied across China’s vast hinterland in amassing one of the country’s largest personal fortunes: His company, China Pacific Construction Group, put up nearly all the money, hired workers and bought materials. On dark and muddy roads, workers added pavement and streetlights shaped like flowers. In the lonely center of the city, they inserted six public squares and statues of Genghis Khan. The city will pay in installments.

Yan’s little-money-down financing has gained his company more than $50 billion in construction contracts since it was launched four years ago, elevating China Pacific into the largest private employer in the land, with more than 100,000 workers. Yan was recently ranked as China’s second-richest man by analyst Hu Run, whose annual list of the wealthy has become a national event. Yan’s personal assets were estimated at $1.6 billion, trailing only the $1.75 billion fortune amassed by Huang Guangyu, founder of Gome, a chain of discount electronics shops.

“I was going to be number one,” Yan, 45, said in an interview. “I have villas and apartments in Nanjing and Shanghai. I drive a BMW. I have a Mercedes-Benz, a Cadillac, a Lincoln Town Car. I have everything. But in China, the bigger the tree, the more wind it catches. I knew being listed as the richest man would be asking for trouble, so I pushed to be ranked lower.”


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