The story of Zhang Xin’s rise to success shows how ambition and hard work can take you to soaring heights. Although a native Chinese, her parents belonged to Chinese immigrant families from Burma who returned to China in the 1950’s believing in the dream of a new country under communism. Born in Beijing in 1965, she experienced a not so comfortable life under communist rule.
At the age of only 14 she moved to Hong Kong and became a factory worker. She worked in various sweat shops, saving as much money as she could. Six years later she was able to save enough money to fly to England and go to school there; made possible by grants and scholarships. Armed with a Master’s degree earned in 1992, she then worked for prestigious firms in Wall Street like Goldman Sachs and later on Travelers Group.
Many would have chosen to stay and live the rest of their lives in America, Xin though went back to Beijing in 1994 hoping to make it big in China’s booming economy. There she met her future husband Pan Shiyi who was in the realty business. Together they co-founded SOHO China. Their SOHO (Small Office-Home Office) concept has greatly influenced Beijing’s skyline and architectural development.
Literally penny-pinching to save on cost, and struggling to keep their company afloat, their business eventually grew to become the largest real estate developer in Beijing. The company’s IPO in Hong Kong in 2007 raised $1.65 billion. This turned Zhang Xin into one of the richest self-made woman in the world. Both she and her husband have been given many awards for their success as young business leaders.
She holds the position of CEO in the company while her husband is the Chairman. SOHO China continues to grow with more projects in Beijing and in Shanghai as well. Aside from business she and her husband are also into charity work.
Xin has come full circle. Once upon a time she was eating in a rice bowl at a community canteen in Beijing, now she can look at the city below from one of her award winning buildings. She once worked in various sweatshops in Hong Kong, and now she has held the largest commercial real estate IPO in Asia to date. Not yet in her 50’s there’s more to come from Zhang Xin.