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Archive for July, 2013

“Wealth and Power”—talking with Orville Schell

Monday, July 29th, 2013
Orville Schell at Kellogg

Orville Schell at Kellogg

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director at the Center on U.S.-China Relations of Asia Society, during his recent trip to Chicago. He was in town to talk about his new book Wealth and Power ()—China’s long march to the twenty-first century, co-written with John Delury.

After his talk to a group of Kellogg’s alumni at Northwestern University, he signed a copy of his book for me and chatted with me about his view on China’s extraordinary rise from the “sick men of Asia” not that long ago.

“Westerners often misinterpret what China wants,” he said. “China doesn’t want Western democracy, but to be strong.”

Orville looked to China’s history to illustrate his point that since the Opium War, China was weak for centuries. It was humiliated and beaten (“落后” “挨打”), and has therefore associated power with wealth.

DSC01343Over the last 30 years, China has developed rapidly and accumulated extraordinary amount of wealth and a wealthy class of people. He addressed in his book how China has emerged from the weak to the strong, and moving forward, why China needs to go global and “integrates itself to the rest of the world.”

He addressed the problems China is facing, including corruption, environmental degradation, disparity between the rich and the poor, health care and welfare, but hailed China’s unprecedented development.

One thing he particularly pointed out, however, was the “victim mentality.”

“It’s a very deep and very powerful force,” he said. He cautioned that China should be careful not to overuse it. Nationalism over conflicts with other nations can make China sacrifice recent development, he said.

I look forward to reading Wealth and Power, which examines the lives of eleven important people who made great contributions in creating the China today.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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Hurun Report (《胡润百富》)

Saturday, July 13th, 2013
Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun in Chinese, at interview with author

Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun in Chinese, at interview with Jian 

I’ve heard about the Hurun Report and the China Rich List before, but never read the magazine or the list. Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun in Chinese, founder and Chairman of the Hurun Report, visited Chicago last week. I had the honor of listening to his talk and conducting a one-on-one interview with him.

The fast accumulation of wealth by leading Chinese entrepreneurs has become an astonishing phenomenon. Hurun started the report in 1999, tracking the top 1,000 wealthiest Chinese, with top ones worthy of more than US$10 billions.

According to Hurun, there are 263 billionaires (US$) in China on record. He estimated that the real number is about 750, because many Chinese don’t want to showcase their wealth.

“With every billionaire known publicly, there are two hidden,” said Hurun.

He pointed out that all these billionaires now have one thing in common: “They are all going global,” he said.

These top net worth individuals accumulated their wealth largely from manufacturing, real estate, investment, natural resources, retail, entertainment, etc., according to Hurun.

Hurun said the image of these super rich had gone through a dramatic change in China, from totally negative, related to corruption, to a recognition of their ability.

“You can get lucky only so many times,” Hurun said. “You get to have the ability to develop and manage your business.”

These super rich are going global now via acquisitions and investment.

“It’s a personal insurance policy and a vehicle to provide better education for their children abroad,” said Hurun.

Rupert Hoogewerf talking to Kellogg's alumni at the Northwestern University

Rupert Hoogewerf talking to Kellogg’s alumni at the Northwestern University

Hurun will release its China Rich List in August. For 2012, the top capped at over US$12 billion, and cut off at 1,000 is US$288 million. Hurun said a survey indicated that 14% of the top wealthy individuals are in the process of applying for immigration, and 46% are seriously considering immigration. But the common practice is they get their children and/or spouses immigrant status, while they remain in China.

He said 80% of them intend to send their children abroad to study.

China’s newly rich are having a major impact on the consumption of luxury goods in the world. It has passed Russia (No. 2) and Japan (No. 3) to become the No. 1 luxury good consumption country.

Hurun is here in the U.S. visiting business leaders and municipal officials in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, developing relationship with them so as to provide better services to the Chinese entrepreneurs on his list.

“Hurun Report is acknowledged authority on China’s top entrepreneurs and high net worth individuals,” said Elizabeth Harrington, who has taken the role of Hurun’s U.S. publisher at large. “We’d like to work with Hurun to attract these Chinese to Chicago.”

“Hurun is not a traditional publisher,” said Bill Liu, who works with Harrington on Hurun’s business relations in the U.S. “They have developed personal relationship with their clients. We want to conduct research on these Chinese as they come here.”

Chicago has taken many initiatives to attract Chinese business and investors, vowing to make it the “most China-friendly city in the U.S.”

Several Chinese companies have set up operations in the greater Chicago area, including Goldwind, Wanxiang, and Huawei Technologies.

Hurun, or rather Hoogewerf, met with Mayor Emanuel and Former Mayor Daley during his stay in Chicago.

China has begun to change the flow of investment from not just coming in but also going out. Many countries and cities want to attract part of that wealth to boost their economy. It’s a phenomenon unimaginable one or two decades ago.

Of course, not all the pictures are rosy. China is facing increasing challenges in many areas, including severe environmental degradation, corruption, the huge gap between the rich and the poor, food safety, health care, and welfare, to name a few.

Despite the challenges, China has emerged from what Orville Schell called “a basket” to a world economic power, and along the way, has produced an incredible number of “self-made” billionaires within an astonishing short period of time.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary movie by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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Mahal, an immigrant story in Chicago

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013


photo-53A team of seven actors took turns bringing the story of a Pilipino American family in Chicago alive on stage. The family’s loss, the conflicts between two cultures and generations, the price of assimilation, and the process of reclaiming their identities, all presented in a well-performed, dramatized story.

The play not only examines “what it truly means to be an American family”, but also the universal theme of immigrants adapting to the new country and their descents’ gripping with their roots and identities.

As a first generation immigrant from Asia, I fully understand the father’s expectations and the older brother’s request for respect from the young, America-raised brother, and the quest of the sister, who is immersed in both her country of origin and the new world, to keep the family together by juggling between the two. The play, written by Danny Bernardo, has good dialogues, and the plot, a bit overdramatized, grips the attention of the audience all the way to the end, and the performance, some parts spoken in Tagalog, was genuine and touching.

It’s a serious story presented in a comic and humorous manner. Strongly recommended it.

The show is run from June 28 through August 3 at Stage 773,1225 W Belmont Ave., Chicago. Check it out here.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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Happy Independence Day

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

English: Chicago Lake front bike trail

A glorious sunrise started this July 4th with the beauty of serenity. I looked at the golden beam in the sky above Lake Michigan and watched the American flag by the Field Museum—my indicator of the day’s weather by its waving in the air. It stood almost still early this morning, with a poise that was touching and peaceful.

I took it as a beckoning to get to the lakefront trail and celebrate this special day starting with a bike ride. There were people cycling, jogging and walking on the trail, and right behind the Field Museum, a variety of flowers in purple, yellow, pink, and red filled the air with a sweet fragrance and a vibration of life. I slowed down, taking in the smell and color.

“Happy July 4th,” a smartly dressed cyclist shouted as he passed on my left. It sounded so melodious to my ears than the usual “on your left” warning usually heard on the trail.

“Thank you,” I murmured after him, knowing he wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“Thank you,” I said again, this time louder into the air.

English: Chicago Lakefront Trail near Gold Coast

I remember the new meaning of the American flag to me right after 9/11. I was in Boston on a business trip when the attacks happened. With all the airports shut down, I rented a car and drove back to Chicago from Boston. What touched me most was the waving of American flags in front of so many residential and commercial buildings. That sense of defiance and patriotism were so deep and genuine that it put tears into my tears and made me feel proud to be part of this great country.

Today, as I speeded along the lakefront trail, enjoying the cool air, the ripples of waves on the lake, and peaceful surrounding, I felt ever more appreciative of the life this country had provided for us all.

Thank you, America, and happy July 4th, happy independence day!


Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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