Twilight of entrepreneurs in China

Soho China founders the latest among a business elite that has either gone silent or left the country as China veers away from the freewheeling capitalism that Deng Xiaoping and former premier Zhu Rongji pioneered.

The Wangjing Soho development in Beijing. Soho China's stock has lost more than half its value in the past year. PHOTO: AFP
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Wealthy and powerful entrepreneurs in China were once idolised by the public, doted on by the government and courted by foreign investors. They helped build the Chinese economy into a powerhouse and with it became the global face of Chinese business in a freer era, amassing billion-dollar fortunes, buying mansions overseas and holding court at elite international gatherings. Now billionaire tycoons are the outsiders in an increasingly state-driven economy that prioritises politics and national security over growth.

As the government cracks down on business and the economy weakens, they are keeping low profiles, stepping down from their companies or leaving the country entirely. In the latest exodus, two of China's best-known entrepreneurs, Mr Pan Shiyi and Ms Zhang Xin, resigned last as chairman and chief executive respectively from their real estate empire, Soho China.

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