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New Generation of Zhejiang Merchants
    2009-01-04 09:34:07     CRIENGLISH.com
Thirty years of reform and opening up have seen a rapid development of privately owned enterprises in Zhejiang Province in eastern China. Although the province covers only one percent of the national territory, its GDP has reached fourth in the country.

Today, the first generation of Zhejiang merchants is already middle-aged and young businessmen are readying to wrestle control from the older generation. In today's program Liu Yan will introduce you to a new generation Zhejiang merchant and share his pressures and pleasures.

27-year-old Dong Ming graduated 4 years ago from the business management department in Chongqing University, based in this major southwest city. In 2005 he was designated as deputy general manager in his father's textile machinery company which saw an annual income of billions of yuan.

As the only son in the family, Dong Ming has long been aware of his role as successor. But soon after he entered the company, he started to doubt his choice.

"When I was young I hoped to be a teacher, a public servant or a businessman. As any ambitious young person, I was glad to knew I would become the boss of my father's enterprise. But later when I grew up and had some knowledge, I was distressed about the job and thought about if I could do something else. I kept doubting my choice and it was hard for me."

The hardest moment came about two years after Dong entered his father's company and he was sent to open a new factory. Dong Ming spent both time and energy, but the result was far from satisfactory.

"I was suffering with the thought that my life was so different from other young people. I wanted a comfortable life where I could enjoy the weekends. But my tiring job gave me only one day off in the entire month. I regretted I was not a public servant or something similar. My parents were rich and it should have been easy for me to have houses and cars. I didn't need to work so hard."

Dong says that since his major was not engineering, he had difficulties in production management. Communication was hard between him and the engineers. He also admits he is a kind of introvert and was under pressure to lead such a production line of 50 staff members.

"Production management was a big headache for me at that time. Because of my lack of professional knowledge, we chose and manufactured products which did not sell. The workers had low salaries and there was low morale. I was scared with the idea that my father's enterprise might be destroyed by my hand. I suffered from insomnia for nearly three months, lost weight and much of my hair turned white. Now I have to dye it."

Dong Ming says he overcame the hard period thanks to help from other management personnel.

"Tortured by self-criticism, I saw how everyone complained about me. I could barely carry on my job because the pressure was too big. But thanks to other management staff who divided and shared my responsibilities, I gradually learned to cope with it."

While Dong Ming regained confidence at work, a new problem emerged. Clashes occurred between the two generations of management and the father and son had sharp contradictions in management concepts and managerial systems. Dong Ming was in charge of purchasing.

"We had several bitter quarrels about the limits of my power. I threatened to quit if he didn't allow me to get involved in high management. I wanted authority in the use of workers and policy making. It ended with my father having to compromise. Looking back, I didn't worry at all that I could be fired by him. I was confident because everyone in management supported me, as did all the family members too."

Years of experience in management sharpened his wits and made him a skilled and confident leader. To his surprise, his father, who was very successful and confident in his time, now doubts his decisions.

"Frankly speaking, I'm in a better condition than my father now. My father has been so smooth in his career that he cannot bear any setback. I always said to him, being a big boss, you shouldn't be bothered by such minor problems. Everything has its ups and downs. When your business has trouble, don't bother about profit or loss, just live on regardless. When there is life, there is hope. Seek new opportunities to start again. But I still understand my father and his worries. A great businessman needs extraordinary quality, and must be prepared for danger in times of safety."

In 2008, Dong Ming took control from his father and became president of a company with 50 million in assets and more than 200 technical personnel. In face of the current global economic crisis, Dong stays confident. He is even considering turning his company from manufacturing to a service enterprise.

"I don't know what my father thinks of me now. But I feel a lot more mature now."

Dong Ming still lives a simple life and has low living costs. His hobby is his Porsche off-road vehicle, the only luxury in his life. He loves driving it and the feeling that he is in complete control of his life.

"In fact I feel more pressure now than before. I helped my father run his business in the beginning, but now he is my aid. It would be hard for me without my father. We depend on each other. We talk a lot now."
 
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