China is home to the most self-made women entrepreneurs in the world, according to a new report. The country minted 24 new female billionaires to start 2021, bringing the total number to 85, said Hurun Research Institute.
China’s 85 female billionaires amount to two-thirds of the 130 women billionaires in the world.
While the number of women billionaires grew 30 per cent from last year, the 3,098 male billionaires dwarf the 130 self-made women billionaires.
Rupert Hoogewerf, the chairman and chief researcher at Hurun, told the South China Morning Post that the rest of the world needs to “wake up” to the dominance of Chinese women entrepreneurs. Chinese women make up 70 per cent of the world’s most successful women entrepreneurs.
People need to study China and see “what’s hampering women elsewhere to build businesses of that size,” he added.
Hurun Research Institute found nine out of the top ten self-made women billionaires are from China and eight out of ten new faces are from China.
Here are the three wealthiest Chinese women entrepreneurs and how they self-made their billions.
Zhong Huijuan, 60, CEO of Hansoh, US$22 billion (S$$29.6 billion)
Zhong Huijuan is the 60-year-old executive of the pharmaceutical company Hansoh. She is the world’s richest woman entrepreneur for the second year in a row.
Born in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Zhong studied chemistry and started her career as a middle-school chemistry teacher. Her husband, Sun Piaoyang, who was also a billionaire, was a manager at a state-owned pharmaceutical factory and introduced Zhong to the industry.
In 1995, Sun started Haosen Pharmaceutical, an early iteration of Hansoh. Sun decided to put Zhong in charge of the company because he still needed to manage the state-owned factory he worked at.
Zhong decided to shift the company’s focus towards making patented medicine instead of generic drugs, a strategy that took the company to new heights.
Two years later, Zhong made her first break by successfully producing an antibiotic drug called Cefalexin, which treats various bacterial infections. Cefalexin became the company’s top-selling drug as soon as it launched.
Zhong continued to devote 10 per cent of annual revenue to new drug research and development. By the early 2000s, the company had made 40 new drugs, covering antibiotics, psychiatry and hormonal drugs. These drugs made the company one of the most successful pharmaceutical companies in the country.
Fan Hongwei, 54, CEO of Hengli, US$23 billion
Born in the eastern province of Jiangsu, Fan’s first job was as an accountant. She is now the CEO of Hengli, a chemical fibre supplier.
Her first opportunity in the industry came from her husband Chen Jianhua, the chairman of Hengli’s holding company, also a billionaire.
In the early 1990s, Chen started selling chemical fibre and white factory silk from the back of a bicycle due to an injury from a construction gig.
The peddling turned out to be a lucrative business in a country hungry for raw materials.
In 1994, Chen and Fan pooled their funds and bought a loss-making weaving factory. They convinced the old workers to stay, launched a series of restructurings and turned the factory around in a year.
They kept investing their profit back into the company, upgrading their equipment and expand factory lines. By the early 2000s, the company has grown into one of the world’s biggest weaving companies.
In recent years, Hengli championed tightening environmental policies, growing into China’s largest fibre producer, used mainly for the apparel industry.
Wu Yajun, 57, co-founder and chairperson of Longfor, US $17 billion
Wu Yajun is the co-founder of Longfor, one of the world’s most valuable real estate developers.
She grew up in a small apartment and shared a communal kitchen with ten other families. Her father worked at a state-run general store and her mother was a tailor.
In her early 20s, as a young college graduate with an engineering degree, she worked as a technician in a state-owned factory. In the late 1980s, as China began its market reform, she started working as a writer at a local newspaper in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where the local Housing Commission oversaw the newspaper.
The job gave her vast sources of housing officials and developers, invaluable connections as she made her transition into real-estate development.
In 1993, Wu cofounded Longfor with her ex-husband Cai Kun, who no longer plays a role in the company after they divorced in 2012.
In 2004, Longfor entered the international market by setting up joint ventures with Hongkong Land, a property investment, management and development group.