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BOOK REVIEW: Dong Mingzhu & Gree
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Dong Mingzhu & Gree
Author: Guo Hongwen

BT 201805 Book 02中国的商场职场往往以男性力量为主导,我们较难以看到女性在其中发挥主要领导作用。但近年来有一位职场女强人越来越多的走入大众视线——你可以在格力手机上看到她,可以在格力产品广告中看到她,没错,她就是董明珠。在众多成功企业家当中,格力集团董事长董明珠女士, 除其自身固有的冷静、刚毅、竭力、担当、睿智等优秀品质外,还有一种特质,即“前瞻”。格力空调能够从一个默默无闻的小工厂成为当今的世界知名品牌,很大一部分功劳要归于董明珠。她在格力的成功无疑是一个极为励志的故事,她中年时期进入格力,从最基层的销售员做起,如今成为格力的掌门人,打造了格力这个世界名牌。



Chinese business is renowned as a particularly masculine domain, with its Maotai-laden dinners and cigarettes and KTV-bonding. There simply don’t appear to be enough women successful in Chinese business, which is a shame in a country known for its drive to educate girls. It’s therefore a pleasure to read a book about Dong Mingzhu, a Chinese woman who has come to lead a major company having worked her way up from the bottom. Likewise it is a company which similarly has grown from a workshop in Zhuhai to one worth billions and is selling products around the world.

How did Dong and Gree get there? Dong’s story is itself highly unusual. Born in Nanjing in 1954, she graduated from the Wuhu Institute of Cadre Education with honors in Statistics in 1975, and went to work as a cadre at a chemical research institute in her home city. She married and had a son, but was suddenly widowed at age 30 when her husband died in an accident. In 1990 she moved south, quitting her job in Nanjing to move to the up-and-coming Shenzhen to work as a sales associate with Gree. From there her career blossomed, taking in millions of Yuan in sales revenue to become director of sales for the entire company by 1994, under the watchful eye of former Gree president Zhu Jianghong.

Having been appointed deputy president in 1998 and president in 2001, she has strived to make the company credible internationally, with sales booming to RMB100 billion in 2012 (at a growth-rate of 19.87%). The picture of her is severe and rigorous, rejecting entrenched back-scratching habits that benefitted some in favour of practical, logical measures, and even fighting to overturn local government contracts that Gree had lost out on, when clearly not based on commercial grounds. She has clearly fought hard to overturn shady business practices and make Gree a respectable, reliable modern firm, and for that she is to be lauded.

While Dong Mingzhu & Gree tells the story for the most part well, in bite-sized sections which unfortunately don’t always convey the timeline coherently, it does lapse into sexist language even (or especially) where it means to praise. In summarizing Dong’s achievements, Guo feels compelled to suggest that “Dong Mingzhu’s success shows that women can bring tenderness and beauty to the world of business and make the world vibrant and colourful.” Perhaps; but I should think that shareholders and employees would be more concerned about stock price and sales volumes. Guo similarly is sometimes too keen to hype the achievements of Dong and Gree, with overexcited language (“Dong Mingzhu is a simple and pure person”) where calm exploration of the firm’s remarkable growth would serve better.

Biography should never become hagiography. Nonetheless, in setting out Dong’s life and the growth of Gree to one of the largest electrical appliance firms in the world, Dong Mingzhu & Gree is useful book which deserves attention.

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