MOBILE phone in hand, Wang Peipei can more than hold her own among the men in business suits, and look no less serious. In fact, the Shanghainese business dynamo dwarfs many of her male colleagues with her height and, above all, her position as president of one of China's earliest-formed and fastest-growing joint venture companies, EAS International Transportation. Established in 1985 with seven staff and an investment of US$100,000, EAS was China's first joint venture in the air cargo business. It has since grown into an operation with a capital of 20 million yuan (about HK$17.8 million), a staff of 1,000, and branch offices in 15 Chinese cities, Hong Kong, Singapore and Frankfurt in Germany. Ms Wang was the pioneer of China's entry into international business. ''Maybe it's because of my command of English. I have only been dealing with the transport people with no experience whatsoever in air cargo,'' Ms Wang said. A foreign-language graduate from Tianjin's Hebei University in the '70s, Ms Wang was an official in the State Tourism Bureau until she took up the offer from the Public Security Ministry and joined the EAS. She said the joint venture was an undertaking between the Public Security Ministry's Jinan Corp and EAS Aircargo System (HK), set up by a French-Chinese especially for the project. ''Jinan is a trading company of the Public Security Ministry. It is to generate revenue for the ministry's modernisation, such as the buying of vehicles,'' she said. With good backing and favourable timing, EAS reported a surplus in the first month of operation. In 1985, its services were expanded from air cargo to ocean freight, trucking and then investments in real estate and restaurants. Recently it diversified further into container manufacturing, also a joint venture with foreign investments. ''Whether a joint venture is successful or not depends a lot on mutual trust. It is just like finding a lover before getting married. You would only be happy if you trust each other,'' said Ms Wang who has some decade-long experience of working with foreign partners. Apart from the much-needed investments, Ms Wang pointed out that the management culture of foreign enterprises was what China most needed in countering inertia in state enterprises as the country moved from the cradle-to-grave socialist economy to a market-oriented system. According to Ms Wang, causes of inertia included rule-by-man rather than rule-by-law, and complicated decision-making processes. ''It still exists. There seems to be no way out, and this is very disturbing. The people themselves also hate it,'' she said. Ms Wang said it was because of those problems that people preferred working for foreign-funded enterprises despite the lack of free quarters and medical, old-age and family protection provided by state companies. ''The relatively more attractive pay is one reason, but more important is that the working environment in these enterprises is much better, for the management as well as the workers - simpler inter-personal relationship and a more strict bonus-according-to-contribution system,'' she said. She said EAS had adopted Western practices from the beginning, with pay and bonus kept strictly confidential to maintain worker enthusiasm. Differing from Chinese enterprises, EAS also holds meetings out of office hours and has employees work until 6 pm. ''We have no financial assistance [from the government]. We have to work to survive,'' Ms Wang said.