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100 Stories of Central China - Preface

Early 1960s in the last century saw the most difficult period of the newly established People’s Republic of China – with the ravages of three years’ natural disaster followed by widespread famine after the failed Great Leap Forward movement. During those difficult years, I was a diligent primary school pupil. At the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, aged 11 and at primary 5, I was completely in the grip of the ideals and passion of revolution. That December I traveled with the “Tiger Fighting Squad” (formed by the junior Red Guards to Beijing via train hoping to have a glimpse of Chairman Mao on his 73rd birthday on 26 December. By the time we arrived at Beijing, it was nearly the end of the nation-wide travels by the Red Guards. Chairman Mao was already telling everybody to go home to carry on the revolution. At that age, he could no longer stand at the top of the Tiananmen tower to receive adoration from students. Afterwards, violence broke out among different sects of the revolution in cities across the nation, forcing factories, local governments and schools to shut down. Schools were closed for nearly three years, At that time, I lived in the quarters for relatives of the county government. As I was more skilled in calligraphy than my peers, I was recruited to help the revolution unit with copying notices and announcements. That was my opportunity to practice Chinese calligraphy for free. The notices included criticism on traitors, spies, and also Confucius and his teaching of “benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, and trustworthiness”. When schools reopened in 1969, I directly went to junior high school and learned mainly about class struggle and the bittersweet reminiscence of the past. During my first year in the senior high school (during that time both junior and senior high schools lasted for two years), the learning atmosphere was gradually improved with the return of intellectualism. I was lucky enough to obtain a hand-written copy of “The Chinese Code of Success-Maxims by Zhu Zi”. Although I did not fully comprehend the book at that moment, maxims such as how one needs to wake up early and rest early, how one should not keep thinking how much one has given for charity but should never forget people who have help him, and one should not be vain…these were etched deeply in my heart.

People of my generation have typically spent five years in primary school and four years in secondary school, therefore, we all have a rather shaky foundation in cultural knowledge. The little Confucius teaching I had was instilled in me in rather abnormal circumstances. Therefore, when I tell people I lack culture, I am not trying to be too humble.

In 1976, the downfall of the Gang of Four signified the end of the decade-long Cultural Revolution. In October that year, I entered Zhengzhou University by recommendation studying English as the last class of university students from worker, peasant and soldier background (there were five intakes of these students during the Cultural Revolution). Although the university program only extends the industrial, agricultural and military knowledge of our background, we all developed keen interest in learning as time flew by. Within the three university years, we had a fruitful learning experience. Our professors were of high quality. They once were veteran translators for various ministries and were banished to Henan due to the Cultural Revolution. Our experience in physical labor work in rural villages together bonded our friendship. Our class graduated with good English fluency in listening, speaking, reading and writing. One year after my graduation, I obtained the highest score in the China National Foreign Trade English Test, which somewhat demonstrated the quality of teaching from my professors.

In July 1982, I was sent by the Department of Foreign Trade of Henan Province to work in Hong Kong. For roughly a decade afterwards, I have broadened my horizon by accompanying top officials in the province (including two senior government officials of the provincial party committee), and by personally leading delegates to visit over 50 countries. In Hong Kong, where east meets west and tradition blends with modern culture, I had the most rewarding experience of realizing the differences and similarities among different cultures. In 1989, I obtained a copy of the Caigentan after its popularity in Japan caught the nation’s attention. From the book, I began to have a glimpse of the best of Chinese culture. My quest for the truth from history also took shape during that time.

For twenty years onwards, I remained tireless in exploring the patterns of business development, whether I was top management in a state-owned enterprise or an entrepreneur of a private enterprise – and enjoyed the process a lot. I read widely, from “Top 100 Best Managed Companies in America” to comparing the operations of nine largest general trading companies in Japan and six integrated companies in South Korea; from the concept behind “In Search of Excellence” to the essence in “Built to Last” I was keen to read everything from the masters of modern business management, savoring the works of master strategist Michael Porter and the founder of the science of management Peter Drucker. In addition, I also learned to delve into Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism like Nan Huai-Chin in order to find out more about the law that dictates the success or decline of an enterprise among different cultures. In this way, I practice ancient wisdom and adopt what is best in western culture in the Mainland.  Through this process, I also understood more why “regularity is the rule and the rule dictates everything”.

So far, it is apparent how what my cultural foundation is like – shallow, unsystematic and scattered knowledge of classics and modern thinking. My merit is probably my ability of introspection – I reflect on what I am doing three times a day and am guided by wisdom. My advantage is the fact that I travel, from villages to towns, to over hundred famous cities around the world. Among my long-term friends are poor or rich people, government officials, businessmen, black or white, westerners or Chinese.

I am never a believer of any particular religions. To me, all proper religions aim towards practicing good deeds. As long as the goal is good, I will be happy to listen.

I have never thought that I have unusual merit. It often occurred to me that the elderly Uighur lady that adopted 30 orphans, and ordinary people who donate blood a hundred times over ten years without rewards are really moral giants.

Neither do I feel I have made much progress in nurturing virtues. I only stick to the principle of “doing what I have promised and be an honest person.” To this day, the same rule applies – I value punctuality, keep my promise and stick to my principles.

I have never had the desire to write a book. I humbly believe: if one believes in self-discipline, then one does not need to say too many words; if one wants to exhort, it is appropriate to use just a few words. Why bother to write a book of thousands of words? If I write a lengthy book, then it will only appear to be some kind of self-obsession. 

A Master who is also a close friend of mine sent me a couplet which sums up the virtues we all yearn for: kindness, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and faith; being gentle, kind-hearted, respectful, frugal and tolerant. I believe this is not praise for me, but rather, expectations for this generation.

As I refused to write a book, the“100 Stories of Central China” was compiled by the corporate newsletter editing team, who has made tremendous effort in producing this book. I am deeply touched when reading these stories which are filled with understanding, tolerance, love, memories, praise and encouragement. I am not easily excited, but still I find the book very touching and tears welled up again and again when I was reading it. The extraordinary writers of the book include business tycoons, elites in political and academic circles and many are dear friends and relatives of Central China – they have accompanied and taken care of Central China as the company is growing. These are the partners of Central China, people with the same goal. 

Meanwhile, “The Central China Regional Strategy Report”, published by Henan Academy of Social Science, and “The Central China Guide”, published by the Brand Management Department of Central China, are launched at the same time. The three books together will help readers understand the 20-year-old Central China today and what the future holds for the company.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell my friends that Central China’s goal to achieve greater business success does not mean it wants to build a bigger fortune. Nor is it related to the capitalization of the company, or the many projects under development. It is also not because of my personal lifestyle or that of my family. The future business success of Central China will determine how successful it is in pushing for core values in society. I believe the more successful Central China is, the more influential it will become socially. I privately set up Henan Source Humanistic Commonwealth Foundation with my own money last year, as a new platform to promote my belief in the core values.

I want to do this preface to share with you my thoughts on the core values. Central China certainly has the DNA of a great enterprise but is marching on in the path for greatness. I am an advocate for art and culture but only manage to have a glimpse of great works from ancient times to the present day. The trust of friends is my fortune, and also empowers me. With mutual trust, we take bold strides towards a bright future!

This preface will also serve as my “cultural” confessions.

Wu Po Sum
28 March 2012, Hong Kong

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