Like a relentless overachiever, China is eagerly collecting superlatives. It’s the world’s fastest-growing major economy. It boasts the world’s biggest hydropower plant, shopping mall, and crocodile farm (home to 100,000 snapping beasts). It’s building the world’s largest airport (the size of Bermuda). And it now has more self-made female billionaires than any other country in the world.
This is not only because China has more females than any other nation. Many of these extraordinary women rose from nothing, despite living in a traditionally patriarchal society. They are a beguiling advertisement for the New China—bold, entrepreneurial, and tradition-breaking.
Four standouts among China’s intriguing new superwomen are Zhang Xin, the factory worker turned glamorous real-estate billionaire, with 3 million followers on Weibo (China’s Twitter); talk-show mogul Yang Lan, a blend of Audrey Hepburn and Oprah Winfrey; restaurant tycoon Zhang Lan, who as a girl slept between a pigsty and a chicken coop; and Peggy Yu Yu, cofounder and CEO of one of China’s biggest online retailers. None of these women inherited her money, and unlike many of the richest Chinese who are reluctant to draw public scrutiny to their path to wealth, they are proud to tell their stories.
How did these women make it to the top in the wild, wild East? Did they pay a price, either in their family or their professional lives? What was it that distinguished them from their famously hardworking compatriots? As I set out to explore these questions, my interest was partly personal. All four of my subjects lived for extended periods in the West. As a Chinese-American, and now the infamous Tiger Mom, I was curious: how “Chinese” were these new Chinese tigresses?
Related previous post: Zhang Xin on Charlie Rose (July 2011)
Zhang Xin on Charlie Rose (December 2011)TED Talk - Yang Lan: The generation that's remaking China