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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
      提起万达集团与王健林的名字,想必中国人妇孺皆知。让王健林“声名大噪”的事大概是他以净资产860亿人民币问鼎2013年福布斯中国富豪榜首富之位。2015年,胡润研究院发布《胡润百富榜》,王健林及其家族以2200亿财富超过马云,第二次成为中国首富。

      这位中国商界的风云人物并不是“衔着金钥匙出生”的幸运儿,王健林于1954年生于四川省广元市,1970年,他回到了苍溪老家参军,自此开启了自己从一个新兵到转业就业最终走向商界的传奇人生。几年后,他便晋升为排长,并进入大连陆军学院学习。1979年,王健林从大连陆军学院毕业,后来又从部队转业,进入大连市西岗区人民政府任办公室主任。在那个很多人都不敢“下海”的年代,王健林顺应改革大潮一脚踏入房地产业,大力发展商用建筑,并从1989年起担任大连万达集团股份有限公司董事长至今。

      上述有关王健林成长和创建大连万达集团的点滴都由作者周璇记录在《王健林:万达广场的背后》一书中。其中还提到,了解政府政策、遵循党的路线方针,保持良好的政治关系,是万达集团发展壮大不可或缺的条件。原本岌岌可危的住宅开发企业,在他的带领下扭亏为盈,甚至逐步发展至足迹遍布地产、足球、文化、娱乐等行业,真正成为了涉猎广阔的跨国企业。

      就让我们打开这本书,跟随作者周璇的描述,一同走近万达,走近王健林。
 

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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