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China's Richest Man

To Liu Yongxing, president of the 20-year-old Hope Group, the plant is his millennium hope -- and the hope of Chinese farmers.

"It makes me the richest man in China, and makes money for farmers," the farmer's son said in an interview with Xinhua.

Worth US$1 billion, the plant, which mainly produces feedstuff, is China's most powerful private company. For several years, one of Liu's jobs had been to paint advertisements along every major highway in the countryside: "Use Hope's feedstuff, and your pigs will grow stronger and fatter."

By 2000, the 54-year-old self-made tycoon had established 100 feedstuff-processing factories throughout China. Forbes, of the US, ranked Liu as the richest man on the Chinese mainland in 2001.

However, 20 years ago, when he and his brothers established their first company, a quail-raising farm, Liu's wealth only came to 1,000 yuan (US$120).

"We had to sell our watches and bicycles to acquire our first investment to buy the lovely birds," Liu said.

But things soon changed after that, when the gifted Lius recognized the significance of bio-ecology in an agriculture-dominated country.

"We began to use quail's droppings to feed the pig, and to use the pig's feces to feed the fish, and the fish's feces to feed the quail. In this way, we built our own bio-chain," he said.

The difference between a natural biological chain and the Liu model is that Liu used a computer to control the whole process.

That was unusual in the countryside. But Chinese farmers were smart enough to understand the effectiveness of Liu's method, and they enthusiastically asked Liu for help. At that moment, Liu realized that he could sell his invention for money.

Based on the "quail dropping discovery" Liu developed his Hope feedstuff, which eventually became a well-known brand throughout the country, easily beating all import feedstuff products. The recipe is still a well-kept secret.

Liu and his brothers have said farewell to bicycles, and they now ride in luxury sedans, fly to developed countries to give lectures, and air their views at China's parliamentary meetings.

And farmers are the biggest beneficiaries. They have purchased Liu's feedstuff and built their own super pigpens.

"It is not a business miracle, but a political result," Liu said. " Deng Xiaoping 's reform and opening up policy was like a hammer shattering a big stone that lay on us. The Hope Group is like a seed under the broken stones which grows with the help of fresh rain water."

Liu recalled that in the 1970s families were not allowed to raise quails because the business was considered "a way of corrupt capitalist economy".

He said that his business developed even faster after 1992 when Deng Xiaoping made a tour to the southern part of China where he called for a faster economic growth rate. Liu is proud to be a native of Sichuan Province, that is, from the same province as Deng.

Liu also attributes his success to science. Unlike most farmers laboring in the fields, Liu was a college graduate who majored in mathematics. "I know more about what the knowledge economy is than my fellow villagers," he said.

Liu was once given the title: "China's best private entrepreneur using science and technology" by the then State Commission of Science and Technology.

Liu said his greatest hope is to make all Chinese farmers rich and to fill the gap between cities and the countryside.

To reach his ambitious goal, Liu is not satisfied with just being the "King of Feedstuff" in China. In 2001, his group took the first step towards a global strategy by building two feedstuff factories in Vietnam.

"We have already entered the WTO. Why not try it on the international arena? One day you will see Hope on the New York Stock Exchange," said the farmer's speaker.

(rednet.com.cn January 24, 2002)

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