Annie Wu established the first joint-venture company in mainland China. In 1979, after Deng Xiaoping introduced his policy of reform and opening to the world, Annie Wu was the first entrepreneur through the open door. She beat the competition for the now-legendary No. 001 Joint Venture business license. Her company provides on-flight catering for Air China.
The Hong Kong businesswoman is the proud owner of business license 001, for Beijing Air Catering Company. Wu is chairperson of the World Trade Centers Association of Hong Kong, and her devotion to public service has been recognized through a string of awards.
Her upbringing had a big impact on her life. “My family was very progressive. People were always coming to the house to meet my father, and so I got to meet a wide range of people. We were not an average Chinese family. It was an innovative and encouraging environment,” Wu said. From her father, Wu learned “the business world is a world for men.” That, however, didn’t deter her. Wu had a head start in life: She attended Sacred Heart Canossian College in Hong Kong, and St Godric’s College, a finishing school in Hampstead Heath in London.
How does she do it? “Anything is possible if you have good staff around you. I believe you can groom yourself into the style of life you want,” she says. “I wanted to be Robin Hood. He’s a hero of robbing the rich to help the poor.” It could be said that Wu has achieved her dream; while her business ventures have always stayed above board, she has focused her time and attention on convincing Hong Kong’s wealthy to donate money to the most needy in society.
She’s a modern-day Chinese Robin Hood. She has focused much of her charity efforts on children. Her work at the Chinese History and Culture Educational Foundation for Youth is aimed at educating Hong Kong’s young people about their cultural identity. “Hong Kong has no national identity. We want young Chinese to have a Chinese identity. Not only be patriotic, but to have a link with the mainland,” says Wu.
The organization arranges five-day visits to Beijing for Hong Kong children who would not normally have such an opportunity. “They get to know Chinese history and culture instantly.” What is her advice to children who dream of success? “Be assertive, flexible and congenial. Don’t sit around waiting to be served. Have ambition and develop your own goals.”
There are lots of people all over China who depend on Wu. The Chinese Government launched its Western Development Strategy in 1999, and Wu rose to the challenge.
Her footsteps are all over Yunnan Province and the Tibet and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions. With The United Nations Children’s Fund—UNICEF (China), she lobbied for funding from the Ministry of Health for a national hepatitis B vaccination program for children. Ningxia became the testing site for the project. Wu is a council member of UNICEF Hong Kong who has donated more than US $17.5 million to UNICEF (China). “This was not from corporate donors, but from people on the street. We organized pop concerts, video appeals and street stands,” she said. Wu has many roles: Successful entrepreneur, China’s Robin Hood, and fairy godmother to the children around her. So, when does she make time for herself? She doesn’t. Says Wu, “If you look at what you can do for yourself, you’ll become very small minded.”
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