China's workers once worshipped Chairman Mao. Now they worship Chairman Tao, the head of Shanghai's biggest private company and the mainland's 15th richest person. Tao Xinkang is a member of a new breed of red capitalists embraced by the Communist Party to keep the economy growing as the state sector shrinks. As China launched economic reforms in 1978, Mr Tao started a furniture company that later became wood products giant Xin Gao Chao Group. Company vice-president and deputy party secretary Chen Chunliang said: 'At the time of reform and opening, a lot of people didn't dare to be entrepreneurs. He was ahead of his time.' As China moves to a market economy, wealthy entrepreneurs are admired and envied for their money. Local government officials praise Gao Chao for employing laid-off workers and making a contribution to society. Once derided as 'bloodsuckers', entrepreneurs have received greater political recognition from the 16th party congress this month. Some will join the party despite opposition from conservatives. Entrepreneurs say they serve the party out of patriotism but many admit political cover and business contacts are motives. The flashy lifestyles of some entrepreneurs have attracted the attention of tax authorities, who have sent a message that getting rich is glorious as long as the government receives its cut. Despite the growth of big private companies, many still struggle with prejudice and lack of funds. Small private firms have trouble taking out bank loans and listing on the stock market. Analysts say the question is whether private companies will push for change or remain content. 'The environment for private enterprises is getting better. We hope private enterprises will have more confidence to develop,' says Gao Chao's Mr Chen.