Showing what makes a great Chinese entrepreneur

By Bai Ping ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-10-11 06:51:24

If the rumored biopic about Jack Ma, the richest man in China, becomes reality, I hope it includes the skirmish between him and a bunch of manhole cover thieves in his hometown, which epitomizes some essential traits of any entrepreneur who has made it big in the country.

Showing what makes a great Chinese entrepreneur

The difference between decency and trashing the joint

Showing what makes a great Chinese entrepreneur

The bling and hollow ring of ill-gotten gains 

On a summer night in 1995, when Ma was still a struggling Internet entrepreneur who worried about his rent in Hangzhou, he saw five or six burly men levering up a manhole cover on the road.

Ma decided to stop them despite his slight figure. He rode a bicycle around the crime scene several times looking for help, but nobody was willing to join him. He finally confronted the men and shouted: "You put it back!"

But Ma was not attacked. Instead, he became an instant hero, because the pilfering was staged by a television station to capture local people's reactions to thefts caught on hidden cameras. Ma was the only one who stood up to the thieves that night.

Besides good citizenry, audiences also marveled at Ma's determination to achieve his goal once he had set it. The young man with rumpled hair also seemed to have exceptional street smarts. He amused viewers after he confessed that when he confronted the men, he also had an exit strategy in place: he had one foot on the pedal so he could flee if one of the men lunged at him.

Ma's first TV appearance which has resurfaced on the Internet recently, has also corroborated with my own observation that besides having other important attributes, only people with extraordinary vigor, persistence and savvy to solve real-life problems and take calculated risks can succeed in the Chinese environment that brims with both opportunities and challenges.

At about the same time that Ma was tinkering with his online yellow pages that were to become the global giant Alibaba group, I had met several cash-strapped Internet entrepreneurs who were bent on finding free content for their portals.

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