Wanda Group Has “No Political Affliation”, Wang Jianlin Says

Chairman of the Dalian Wanda Group and recently named “China’s Wealthiest Man”, Mr. Wang Jianlin, addressed an audience of over 800 students and faculty at Harvard Business School on Thursday, October 29.

After an introduction by Professor William Kirby, Mr. Wang discussed Wanda’s globalization strategy. “We are currently experiencing the fourth transformation since 2012 – we are going global. We began the process [to go global] very early, and at that time we were not as ambitious as today, we had just bought our first U.S. company,” said Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang stated his hopes to make Wanda Group the ambassador of Chinese companies overseas, with half of Dalian Wanda Group’s overall revenue currently coming from overseas. Mr. Wang continued, “Our strategic goal is to have $200 billion in assets in 5 years time, so that in 2020 we are a public company worth over $20 billion with over $10 billion in profits. Among these, revenue from overseas will be 30%. This is part of our process of transformation from a Chinese company to a global company.”

Next, Professor Willy Shih engaged Mr. Wang in a conversation. Mr. Wang commented on the mixed track record of companies going abroad. “The biggest challenge we’re facing is trying to retain the original management team… All the companies we have are all unique. We don’t send anyone to their management team. We must think about how to inspire the current management team and build incentives so that the management team wants to work hard. After we set up this system, have a goal: first year’s loss become second year’s profit… U.S. companies sending their team to China are a failure. [Instead,] let the company’s original team offer its talent.” When asked about The New York Times article that suggests that the rapid growth of the Wanda Group is associated with the group’s political affiliations, Mr. Wang described an instance where political ties had negatively affected his business, and stated that the conglomerate’s rapid growth relied on its singular implementation and execution power. “No such thing as political affiliation,” Mr. Wang concluded.

In the Q&A with the audience that followed, Mr. Wang addressed questions ranging from his personal goals to the future of U.S. – China trade relationships. Mr. Wang described his professional goal as turning Wanda into a world-renowned company, in the likes of Microsoft or Walmart. “Speaking of when I could achieve it, maybe in 4 or 5 years the fastest, or 7 to 8 years in a slower pace. I will retire by then,” he said. As for his personal goal, he described it as, “Wang Jianlin won’t be hated by anyone… There might be cultural differences between U.S. and China, that in China, it’s difficult to make people really like you and remember you for a long time… I do hope that people can picture a philanthropist in their mind, not an entrepreneur when I get retired or really old.”

Mr. Wanda fielded a political question about what US–China trade relations would look like should Hillary Clinton become the President. He answered, “Unlike Americans, Chinese focus on our own affairs. America has a problem of involving matters of other countries. So the election is of no relevance to me. I believe that no matter who wins the election, the President of the USA won’t do any bad to China–US relation as the economy connection is getting stronger and stronger. For example, company like Wanda, we’ve hired 20,000 staff in the States. Imagine one day, if there are 100 Chinese companies offering 20 million jobs in the States, why couldn’t China and U.S. embrace in a great relation?”

Mr. Wang then extrapolated that the greatest job opportunities in China lies its entertainment, sports, and tourism industries. “For the past six years the entertainment industry has been growing by over 40%, and this year it has topped 50%… There is room for [the sports industry] to grow several dozen times over… For those industries no matter what you major in – there is much money to be made there.”

(All quotes are translation from the Fairbank Center)

By HCF staff Yoko Sudo