WENZHOU, a city of one million in east China’s Zhejiang Province, has become a catchword for the entrepreneurial spirit sweeping the country.
Wenzhou businessmen who are now found throughout the country stand out because of their expensive clothes and notoriously eccentric dialect.
They are in the most luxurious office buildings in Shanghai’s financial districts as well as remote Muslim villages bordering Central Asia.
In the past couple of years, “Zhejiang spirit” has become a catch-phrase. The spirit, actually a euphemism for economic liberalisation and entrepreneurial pursuit, is embodied by Wenzhou business people.
About 500km south of Shanghai, Wenzhou is geographically isolated from the rest of prosperous Zhejiang Province. Wenzhou has a recorded civilisation dating back 4,000 years. Until a small airport was opened in 1990, visitors had to take a ferry from Shanghai.
The Wenzhou economy, more than 90% non-state, is prospering and expanding. One-quarter of all the cigarette lighters in the world market are made in this city.
Lack of natural resources, shortage of farmland and tough overland transport contribute to the characteristics of the Wenzhou people, including perseverance, self-reliance, pragmatism, solidarity, community spirit and international outlook.
Nan Cunhui, a 40-year-old entrepreneur from Wenzhou who was ranked by Forbes as the 65th richest in China in 2001, said: “Because life is tough in Wenzhou, we had to think of ways to survive to overcome our difficulties.”
Nan started his business under the pressure of survival. He now runs China’s largest manufacturer of low-voltage electronic appliances. – People’s Daily
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