A successful Chinese entrepreneur should understand but not participate in politics, said beverage tycoon Zong Qinghou, billed as China’s richest man.
“Understanding politics gives you hints about where society is heading”, Zong advised fellow businessmen in an interview with China’s Sina News, “and it will save you from making mistakes when investing or running a business.”
Yet Zong warned that it’s impossible for one to juggle business and politics, and succeed in both.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” he said. “The mission is bound to fail.”
Zong said he has managed to maintain a satisfactory relationship with the Chinese government, without ever bribing any officials.But he said he had intentionally kept a distance.
“I have fulfilled our social obligations by running a successful business,” he said, “and the government is happy about it.”
Zong then commented on the seething undercurrent of the “anti-rich” sentiment in China, as many believe the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider.
Only a “minority” of China’s rich people amassed their wealth by bribing officials, and the rest worked diligently and their wealth was legitimate, said Zong.
“The rich should keep investing and creating opportunities to help other people get rich,” Zong said.
Zong’s daughter and only child, Zong Fuli, had made headlines in January after confessing her frustrations in finding love, despite her family wealth.
Zong is not the first high-profile businessman in China to share insight on the tensions between the private sector and one owned and protected by the state.
Feng Lun, chairman of China’s Vantone Holdings, said this year that private businesses in China enjoy none of the privileges of state-owned enterprises.
Feng then famously compared a private business to a “prostitute” by saying “when a private business sues a state enterprise, it’s like when a prostitute sues a government official - we know the prostitute will lose the case even with our eyes closed”.