People's spokespersons and political advisers are meeting from March 3 to 15 in Beijing to discuss national affairs. Lu Guanqiu, chairman of the Wanxiang Group in East China's Zhejiang Province, was named by the Forbes magazine as China's seventh-richest entrepreneur last year. He owns a township auto parts group and is worth an estimated US$480 million. It acquired the ailing NASDAQ-listed Universal Automotive Industries for US$2.8 million. Staff reporter Xie Ye interviewed Lu, who is also a deputy to the Fifth Session of the Ninth National People's Congress.
Q: What has the impact of China's entry into the World Trade Organization had on non-State-owned companies such as Wanxiang?
A: I think WTO entry can bring us more benefits than pain. It gives us more opportunities to co-operate with foreign giants, from whom we could learn about technology and management. Actually, we are talking with General Motors, Ford and other foreign giants on setting up an auto-parts joint venture worth US$100 million in China.
Also, it provides us with access to the big overseas market to export our products. Private companies are more market-orientated, so they adapted earlier to international competition.
Q: What do you think of the role the non-State-owned companies play in the development of China's economy?
A: Private enterprises have boosted China's economy and created lots of jobs. Take myself as an example. I was a farmer before five other villagers and I opened a small workshop to repair bicycles in the 1960s. Now I am chairman of the Wanxiang Group, which has a total assets of 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) and employs 12,000 people.
The government has also supported the development of non-State enterprises and encouraged investment by private companies. Our group is among the 120 key State and non-State enterprises that benefit from favourable government policies.
Q: As a township entrepreneur, do you have any chance or channel to express your opinions?
A: The government is willing to hear our opinions. We have our own organizations, such as the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, to protect our interests. I have also been a deputy to the National People's Congress since 1998. It is another channel for me to present my suggestions and opinions freely. I believe more entrepreneurs from townships and private enterprises will join the next National People's Congress to voice their opinions.
Q: Do you think there will be any changes in the government's support for private enterprises, including after future leadership changes?
A: I do not think there will be any changes. It is like an arrow that has been shot. It can never return. If a policy wins the people's support, the policy will remain. I am confident about this matter.
(People's Daily March 9, 2002)