Page 3 Profile: Zhang Xin, entrepreneur


China’s richest woman?

She’s getting there. Zhang Xin, the CEO of the Beijing and Shanghai’s biggest commercial property developer, is one of the wealthiest self-made women in China. With a net worth of approximately $3.6bn (£2.4bn), she is around seven times richer than the Queen. Now the head of SOHO China she has set her sights on a slice of New York’s iconic skyline.

The Empire State  Building? Trump Tower?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the 47-year-old’s firm is reportedly nearing a deal for a 40 per cent stake in New York’s General Motors building, which would value the skyscraper at an estimated $3.4bn (£2.3bn). The 50-storey, 705ft monstrosity was built by the US car manufacturer in 1968 and currently plays host to the FAO Schwarz toy shop, a major Apple store and commands some of the highest office renting rates in the city.

How’d she get so rich?

Ms Zhang hasn’t always enjoyed the trappings of a luxury lifestyle. Born in 1965, during China’s Cultural Revolution, she was brought up in poverty in Beijing by a single mother. Aged 14, she moved to Hong Kong to work in a sweatshop. Having saved sufficient funds, she moved to the UK to study at Sussex and Cambridge before taking a job at investment bank Goldman Sachs in New York. In 1995, having returned to China, she founded an office real estate company with her new husband, Pan Shiyi. A decade later, SOHO China was the largest such firm in the country. In 2012, its profits were to 3.34bn yuan (£360m).

I take it she only travels by private jet?

Not so. In fact she refuses to even fly first class, saying business class is quite comfortable enough. She said that first-class ticket prices seem grotesque by comparison to her nanny’s salary.

A billionaire with a social conscience?

And some political nous too. She said in an interview with Newsweek last year that China lacked entrepreneurs like the late Steve Jobs “because of the education system, which needs reform, along with health care and the political system. China does not train enough people to think.”