Jiang Xipei, Chairman of Far East Group, has worked his way up from being an ordinary watch repairman to being China's "King of Cable"-leading his company to a ranking of 30th in the 2006 Hurun IT Magnates List. He has undertaken corporate restructuring on four occasions, and plays an active role in various charities. His goal has always been one of responsible entrepreneurship.
Jiang comes from a small town in Jiangsu Province. He graduated from high school, but lacked a solid background in business. Even though his line of work isn't as lucrative as others, such as in real estate, for example, by 2005 he had amassed an amazing 7.4 billion yuan in total assets.
"I always believe that if you are deprived of one chance, you will be presented with another," Jiang said.
What made you start your own business?
Jiang Xipei: Education is worshiped in my hometown-Yixing, Jiangsu Province. Each family expects their children to be successful academically, and my father was no exception. He hoped I would go to university and then find a good job. I studied hard and earned good grades, but I failed the college admission exams. This meant that I had to learn a trade instead of going to university. At that time, my brother was a watch repairman in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province. He told me the business was going well with a daily return of 100 yuan. At that time, it was quite amazing for an ordinary family to have a total savings of 10,000 yuan. His annual income was 30,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan, which greatly impressed me. So at the age of 18, I decided to learn the watch repair trade.
How long before you opened your own store?
It took me 56 days to learn the trade and then I opened my own store. My business was particularly good due to my brother's encouragement and my commitment. I earned around 300,000 yuan in the first five years.
Since you liked it so much, why did you move on from your initial field?
I didn't expect much at the time. What I wanted more than anything was a stable and happy life for my family. I was influenced by the business sense that is popular in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The times were changing and so were our goals.
What were your goals?
My first goal was to accumulate some money and then buy a car. A delivery service by car was a good business then, but you had to wait for at least one year to get your car delivered and it was difficult to find a driver. Therefore, this plan was scrapped. Then I wanted to run a metal hardware factory-a popular business in Zhejiang Province. But Yixing wasn't the place to run such a business and I gave up that idea too.
It was in October 1985 that I returned to my hometown to start my own business. Thanks to some friends, I opened a watch parts manufacturing factory through which I made quite a bit of money. It was around 1988 that I started selling wires and cables. In 1990, after three years of accumulated experience, I founded my own cable factory.
The four corporate reforms
The Far East Group was founded by Jiang Xipei himself, but has since undergone four structural transformations: private ownership, collective ownership, joint venture, and finally mixed economic enterprise. The group is the only example of a successfully reformed large-sized private enterprise in China.