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China’s economic miracle moves inland

Economic pressures and government policies are driving investment inland, but many of the so-called second cities already boast powerful economies. Banks see a new frontier of opportunity. Chris Leahy reports from the cities of Chengdu, Wuhan and Qingdao.

China gets a taste for coffee

LIU YONGHAO CUTS a modest figure considering he is the fifth-richest man in China and chairman and owner of New Hope Group, the country’s largest privately owned enterprise. A former schoolmaster, he sits in a chilly office in Chengdu and speaks softly of his decision to quit teaching and head to the fields in 1982.

“Back then, my monthly salary was the equivalent of $5,” he says. “I thought I’d lose $5 a month but maybe I could get the whole world in exchange, such were the benefits of Deng Xiao Peng’s reforms.”

Liu pawned his bicycle and watch, and borrowed from his family to find the $150 starting capital for his business. It proved a sound investment. New Hope is now China’s largest agribusinesses group, with sales of more than $2.5 billion, is a significant real estate developer and owns 60% of China Minsheng Bank, the People’s Republic’s largest privately held lender.

Liu’s achievements are the more remarkable since he opted to build his business empire in his home town of Chengdu, Sichuan province, in western China, rather than on the streets of Shanghai or in the corridors of power in Beijing.

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