Highly successful and wealthy enterprise owners who were able to make a name for themselves in China were once revered by the masses, lavished by the Chinese government, and sought out from foreign investment. They helped build China’s Chinese economy to become a powerful one. Today, billionaire tycoons are people who aren’t the majority.
BEIJING — Rich businessmen and entrepreneurs of power in China were once revered by the masses, lavished by the government, and sought out by investors abroad. They helped to build China’s Chinese economy to become a booming powerhouse and became the world’s face of Chinese business in a more open time, accumulating billions of dollars as well as buying luxury mansions in foreign countries and hosting court at high-end international gatherings.
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These billionaires are now the people who are left out in an increasingly government-driven economy, which puts national security and politics over growth. As the government clamps down on businesses and the economy slows as they try to keep their profiles low, and are stepping down from their firms or abandoning the country completely.
In the most recent exodus two of China’s most well-known businessmen, Pan Shiyi and Zhang Wei Xin, quit this week as chairmen and CEOs respectively of their real-estate business, Soho China. Both had already relocated into the United States early in the outbreak and had tried to control their businesses with night-time calls to China.
It’s been a difficult year for their business. A deal to transfer an entire stake to Blackstone Group in New York ended up failing when regulators were unable to approve the deal. Soho China’s shares have lost over half of its value in the last year.
“Hugely successful entrepreneurs of the early 21st century in general have to ask questions about whether it is in their best interest to stay in charge of their businesses and stay in China,” said Michael Szonyi, former director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University. “Clearly, the writing is on the wall for these company founders.”