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BOOK REVIEW: Wang Jianlin & Dalian Wanda
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Wang Jianlin & Dalian Wanda
A Biography of One of China's Greatest Entrepreneurs
By Zhou Xuan

BT 201710 Book Review 02




The rise of Wang Jianlin and his Dalian Wanda corporation as a national and international powerhouse is a story worthy of narration. Rising out of the rustbelt of Dongbei China, Dalian Wanda started as a real estate developer and expanded vertiginously into commercial property, cinemas and multiplexes (the famous “Wanda Plazas”), entertainment and football. How has Wang, a former PLA propaganda officer and military academy director, been so effective as a businessman?

This book answers some of these questions. Some of the business strategies which Wang implemented seem obvious in hindsight but were evidently crucial. Wanda offered homes superior to the crumbling made-for-the-masses blocks, which people actually wanted to live in with private bathrooms, anti-theft doors and proper outside-facing windows. Wang leaped at the chance to go private in 1998 when most companies dragged their feet. This gave him the independence to reward employees by merit, thus considerably reducing staff turnover.

Noting the cash-flow problems caused by the lag between the cost of constructing apartments and collecting from sales, he pushed Wanda into commercial real estate so that businesses would pay them monthly rent. Going from malls into city complexes, “also called HOPSCA – H for hotel, O for office buildings, P for public space, S for shopping mall, C for culture and recreation and A for apartment”, Wanda innovatively centered its malls in city centres, becoming one-stop destinations with major brands keen to be located there and drawing in ever more consumers.

The book is also fairly frank about Wang’s efforts to maintain good relations with the government and party and discusses Wang’s various proposals during the two sessions. He once said, “Understanding government policies, following in the Party’s footsteps and maintaining good relationships between politics and commerce is the basis for Wanda’s development”. Doubtlessly true, though you imagine a lot more could be written on the matter. There is also far too little discussion of Wanda’s financing methods and financial results.

Wang Jianlin & Dalian Wanda is a reasonable, if cursory, primer into Wang’s life and the growth of Wanda. It is weakest in its overview of Wang’s early life, where the author compensates for uncertainty with hyperbole. “During his career as a scout in the reconnaissance squad,” Zhou asserts, “he learned to take advantage of every opportunity and trained himself to face up to every challenge”. Oh, please. The book, translated from Chinese, also needs a much stronger copyeditor.


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