Local boys make good, China version

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In an article this spring about China's recovery from the world slowdown, I mentioned a visit to the BYD company in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, where a materials-science PhD named Wang Chuanfu was leading the development of advanced battery powered cars.

IMG_5920A.jpgOn that trip I also visited the nice-but-nothing-fancy dorm-style quarters where Wang and the rest of the BYD management lived. Here's the punchline from that article (with a shot of Wang from the press conference in December announcing his new cars):

"The company's official goal is to be the biggest automaker in China by 2015, and the biggest in the world by 2025. Wang's unveiling of the car in Shenzhen coincided with U.S. congressional debate about emergency aid to GM and Chrysler. I asked Wang if he had any tips for the U.S. companies. He is a quiet, nerdish man who seemed to blanch as he heard the question translated. "For 100 years, nothing has changed in Detroit," he finally said (through the interpreter). "I think they need to reconsider their product lines."


Now, according to this report, Wang has become the richest man in China, thanks to a rise in BYD stock and a stake from Warren Buffett. That is a volatile distinction, with people's fortunes rising and falling, but impressive as an up-from-nothing manufacturing success story.

And in this article in 2007, I discussed the amazing Chinese "reality" show Win in China, which was a kind of super-capitalist version of The Apprentice. One of the finalists in the show was an earthy,  non-college-grad character named Zhou Yu and generally known as the "Lone Wolf."  Ole Schell, who has made a great new documentary about Win In China, has just posted an online report about the Wolf and his lingerie factory in Shandong province. Congrats all around. 


The moment of truth on the show, as the Wolf dutifully claps for the just-announced winner, Song "Social Conscience" Wenming, who raises his hands in victory.
win2guys.jpg

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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