The can-do generation to the fore

Updated: 2016-06-10 08:32

By Gao Yuan(China Daily Europe)

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Country's future rests in the hands of the bright and the young

Thirty-three years ago Chen Bin decided to quit his job in a state-owned maternity hospital in the northwestern city of Lanzhou and to go into business on his own. First he sold T-shirts at a night bazaar, then owned a karaoke bar, which did not last long, and later opened a bakery on the main road.

Chen is among millions of Chinese who, after economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 that encouraged private business, decided to embark on the entrepreneurial road. However, he says he soon found that managing a business was a lot harder than he had expected.

The can-do generation to the fore

"Most of the entrepreneurs lacked a basic knowledge about how to make things work. That was why becoming self-employed was called xia hai (diving into the sea) - a lot of them were going to drown."

A lot did, too. There were a few exceptions, such as Wang Jianlin, the real estate tycoon, and Liu Chuanzhi, founder of the Lenovo Group Ltd, who would make their mark not only in China but around the globe, and others who did reasonably well, or even better, and retired.

In 2002, 15 years after Chen opened his bakery business, it folded amid fierce competition, and these days there is a cafe across the road that has become a hot-spot for the young and self-employed to exchange ideas.

"I envy those kids sometimes," Chen says. "They are better educated and have the know-how in particular fields, which I think is the biggest difference between today's young entrepreneurs and those of my generation."

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