What if you started a revolution and no one came?
Wang Wei, arguably China's most influential businessman of the past decade, may have contemplated the question eight years ago when he launched China's first mergers and acquisitions association. Years of service had earned him a comfortable path to retirement as a senior and well-respected governmental official, if he chose. But a more risky journey beckoned.
His choice transformed this nation's economy. Wang's investment revolution blossomed. We met Wang Wei at the office in Beijing.
Private-sector M&A didn't exist in China before Wang's efforts. Even the term wasn't part of China's business lexicon. Today, membership in the China Association of Private Equity, the China M&A Association and The China M&A Group numbers in the thousands, including U.S. heavyweights who support the sector like Pricewaterhouse. This new investment community is fueling China's extraordinary private-sector growth.
[Three years ago, at one of the many investment conferences that now dot the Chinese business landscape, it was suggested that Wei launch a magazine in support of the sector. The China Dealmaker is now a must-read for investors and the nation's business elite. Last Thursday we signed an agreement to provide content to China Dealmaker about U.S. cleantech and new energy sectors.]
The associations have in effect provided the structure to encourage investment dollars by facilitating connections, providing research and lobbying public-sector entities. Wang's M&A group has been a catalyst for growth and investment - 90 percent of which backs private enterprise. The resulting explosion of entrepreneurship in China's private-sector middle-market has changed the economic landscape here.
How significant has the change been? Consider China businessman Chen Dan's brand development and design firm, Bang. In addition to becoming the go-to firm for some of China's largest companies like China Telecom and Bank of China, Bang has developed a low-cost design alternative for China's expanding small and medium-size business market, www.toidea.com. Demand is off the charts.
Over three short years, Bang's ToIdea.com has churned out over 700,000 design projects, from over 130,000 designers registered on the site, for 20,000-plus businesses from across China. Businesses submit a project, Bang set's a price, and designers respond with ideas. Check it out; there's a real-time counter. If brand and project design is one measure of business activity, then www.toidea.com is chronicling the growth in China's private sector.
And on another note...
It's impossible to visit China without commenting on the food. Thanks to our partner in this endeavor and host on the trip, Jeff Wang of Colorado-based Poetica, LLC, our culinary sojourn in Beijing has been off-the-charts great. I've also tried my best to emulate the Travel Channel's Bizarre Food series. Among the "unique" fare I've sampled: a duck's blood soup, boiled chicken's feet, deep-fried scorpion-on-a-stick, tender goat and donkey (sorry; fare of a former emperor, I'm told), spicy duck's feet, and a couple other things I'm not at liberty to disclose but wouldn't have tried if I'd known the source.
Like a little heat, like me? Beijing's your place.