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Time was when Chinese entrepreneurs had to hide under a red hat. The metaphorical headwear shrouded their capitalistic ambition. Typically, aspiring businesspeople paid a fee to be part of an existing collective enterprise, on the nod of local government officials, to gain legitimacy. How things have changed. Now entrepreneurs are widely admired and are the role model of many aspiring young people. The sea change of attitudes came in the late 1970s, thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s drive to reform and open up the country to the outside world. Today, each year around 17% of the working-age population is engaged in new business creation. In 2016, entrepreneurs created 5.5 million new firms. Internationally, Chinese entrepreneurs have left their mark, firstly through their made-in-China exports, and lately through their shopping spree in cross-border merger and acquisition deals. Increasingly, they have also made their voice

Having Chinese business leaders at the forefront of the global stage is now normal heard. At this year’s World Economic Forum, two of the best-known Chinese entrepreneurs, Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Wanda’s Wang Jianlin, were in Davos to speak about leadership and the future of the world economy. Having Chinese business leaders at the forefront of the global stage is now normal. The sheer rapidity of their rise is astounding. The past three decades has seen the emergence of four generations of Chinese entrepreneurs who have become the driving force of China’s economic growth. Each generation has marked differences in their background, and rightly reflects the economic and social changes in China. The first generation (from the late-1970s to mid-1980s) were mainly rural entrepreneurs who acted as the agents of local governments, genuinely or in disguise, to start and run township and village enterprises (TVEs). Two reforms then made their endeavours possible. The first was the allocation of collective farmland to each rural household, with the delegated decisionmaking power under the scheme of household Q4 2017 Dialogue

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Dialogue Q4 2017