Although little seems to set Hu Chunhua apart from other Chinese Communist party officials, he is the man likely to take over from Xi Jinping as China’s top leader in 2022. Now 50, 10 years younger than Xi, Hu became party secretary of Guangdong, China’s most populous province, last year.
If China has a spin-doctor, it is Wang Huning. Head of the Communist party’s policy research office, he has written speeches for China’s past three presidents. Wang, who studied in the US and speaks French, is president Xi Jinping’s top foreign policy adviser but he also cooked up the “China Dream”, Xi’s overarching propaganda catchphrase.
Xu Zhiyong has long been at the forefront of the fight for the rule of law in China. The lawyer’s latest and biggest project is an activist network which aims to spread the concept of citizenry in China. Xu has potential as a political figure outside the Communist party but that is obviously disconcerting to Chinese leaders – Xu was arrested last month.
It is more than a decade since Hu Jia helped to expose an Aids epidemic in central China that had been caused by a government-backed blood-trading scheme. Since then, the activist has taken up many more cases ranging from environmental protection to petitioners’ rights. Now 40, Hu is one of China’s most outspoken dissidents.
As chief executive of Te ncent, Pony Ma could be called the king of the Chinese internet. He has built an empire of social communication, games and online shopping services for China’s 600 million internet users. Now he is testing his luck in other markets by taking WeChat, the company’s hit mobile chat app, global.
Lei Jun has hit it big. His company, Xiaomi, now sells more smartphones than Apple in China and is valued at $10bn. Lei has had a hand in a range of ventures that have shaped China’s internet industry: software maker Kingsoft; Joyo.com, which is now Amazon China; and UCWeb, China’s biggest mobile browser.
Jonathan Lu’s Alibaba Group may have a stranglehold over the country’s e-commerce market but Lu must fill the shoes of Jack Ma, the company’s founder, as he leads the group through one of the internet industry’s largest-ever IPOs.
Jiang Qiong’er plans to help China cast off the inferiority complex that comes from decades of producing cheap trinkets – by partnering with Hermès to launch a new luxury brand, Shang Xia, that draws inspiration from China’s past. Those emperors, they really knew how to live.
Wang Fengying, CEO of Great Wall Motor Company, is an unusual leader in China’s automotive sector for two reasons: she is a woman, and she has patience. The rest are men, and in a rush to break into the global auto industry, while Wang has taken her time to build a quality “made in China” brand from the ground up.
Guo Guangchang is probably one of the richest people that most FT readers have never heard of. Co-founder and chairman of Fosun, the largest private conglomerate in China, he is helping buy out Club Med. Plenty of other European and US brands are also on his shopping list.
Zong Qinghou has been named China’s richest man two out of the past four years. The “Drinks King” of Wahaha is an earthy guy who has given Coca-Cola a run for its money selling soft drinks in China. With a fortune of $18.7bn, Zong now has plans to sell unknown luxury brands to the notoriously label-conscious Chinese.
A handful of obscure Chinese entrepreneurs have stunned the world in recent years with plans for huge projects. But none more so than Wang Jing, a 41-year-old with interests in telecoms and mining who has come out of nowhere to win the contract to build a rival to the Panama Canal in Nicaragua.
At 61, Fang Fenglei shows no sign of slowing down. The former chairman of Goldman’s China securities business has long been China’s top investment guru but three years ago his company wound down. In May, he pushed for a comeback with a new $2bn fund.
Secrecy surrounds Xiao Jianhua. When state media reported last year that the 42-year-old former prodigy, dubbed China’s “007 of finance”, was involved in the acquisition of HSBC’s stake in Ping An, China’s second-biggest insurer, it was almost enough to derail the entire $9.4bn transaction. It went through – and Xiao got his deal.
Zou Shiming wrote himself into Chinese sporting history in 2008 when he won Olympic gold in boxing, a sport that had never been encouraged by the government. Now he has turned professional and his next fight takes place in Macau in November.
Guan Tianlang grabbed global attention in April when, aged 14, he became the youngest-ever golfer to compete in the Masters, gaining glory in a sport that is looked down upon by the Communist party as bourgeois and receives no official support. Guan will compete in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in October.
Arts & Entertainment
Long a mainstay of modern Chinese literature, Wang Anyi is winning international recognition at last. The 59-year-old writer was a finalist in the Man Booker International Prize in 2011 for The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, her best-known novel, and publishers expect her to win more prizes.
At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin won an award for best screenplay and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Great things are expected from the director. Jia’s immediate task is to get the film approved by Chinese censors for its release in cinemas in November.
Wang Yunpeng is becoming big outside China. The young baritone recently took first prize in a competition at the Manhattan School of Music and came second in the Plácido Domingo Opera Competition. He is soon to start at the Met’s Lindeman Young Artist Development Program.
Social media has made Luo Changping China’s top corruption buster. Posting information about corrupt officials directly on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, has enabled Luo to become a true press watchdog. The latest official to fall following Luo’s revelations is Liu Tienan, head of China’s energy bureau.
As editor of Global Times, the nationalist tabloid owned by the Communist party’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, Hu Xijin is one of China’s most influential men. While his views often earn him ridicule on Sina Weibo, his paper is a channel for the country’s new left to air concerns.
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Hu Shuli is the doyenne of professional journalism in China. Both at Caijing, the economic magazine she founded, and Caixin, the media group she set up, she has pioneered journalists’ integrity and independence in an environment shaped by censorship and bribery.
Social & Academia
Yu Jianrong has made it his business to tell the Communist party how it should move to a constitutional system and address a myriad of other political, economic and social ills. The professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences manages publicly to voice proposals that would land a dissident in jail.
A racing driver, writer and blogger, Han Han is always good for a surprise. The 30-year-old’s signature mix of cynicism, materialism and rebellion has come to represent his generation. He has just won another race and published two new books, one of them containing 1,000 questions from readers and answers from celebrities.
Wang Yi heads one of the largest underground churches, the “Blessing of the Autumn Rain” in Chengdu, with close to 400 members. The 40-year-old was once an atheist intellectual who taught law. His conversion to Christianity embodies a trend that is seeing millions of Chinese flock to religion.