Annie Wu Suk Ching receives an interview with Xinhua in Hong Kong, south China, Aug. 22, 2018. (Xinhua/Qin Qing)
by Zhu Yuxuan, Zhang Huan, Zhan Yan
HONG KONG, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- Annie Wu Suk Ching deserves her reputation as "Ms. 001". As the founder of Beijing Air Catering -- registered as "Sino-Overseas Joint Venture 001" in Chinese mainland, Wu has been dancing with China's reform and opening-up which started 40 years ago.
As an entrepreneur from Hong Kong, Wu has a Chinese dream in her patriotic heart. She is always eager to devote herself to China's development. And now, at the age of 70, the flame in her heart grows stronger. Together with her fellows, Wu carries on, working for the next generation and China's stronger status in international arena.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
"The director of Civil Aviation Administration of China told my father that China had no experience of bringing in overseas companies. They had no concrete idea on this unprecedented matter, but they were willing to make this deal," said Wu.
"My father said that he had confidence in China's reform and opening-up policy as we Chinese shared the same ancestral roots. Then my father and the director shook hands as confirmation," she said.
After the meeting, an airline catering company emerged. Before the official approval by the central government, Wu and her father made thorough preparations for the launch of Beijing Air Catering. In order to establish China's first airline catering before the opening of regular flights between China and the United States, Wu and her father raised 5 million Hong Kong dollars (640,000 U.S. dollars) by themselves to get equipment installed, while overcoming obstacles like non-native chefs' refusal to work in Chinese mainland.
"Without any other example to follow, we had to grope our way at that time. With confidence in our motherland, we were determined to do a good job, not only for our company but also for the people who also had expectation on China's future," said Wu.
In 1980, Beijing Air Catering was launched by the central government, marking the start of the overseas-funded enterprises, to be followed by Beijing Jianguo Hotel, Schindler, Dynasty Winery and others.
By the end of 1985, Beijing had approved 8,355 overseas-funded enterprises. In the first half of 2018, about 30,000 such companies were set up in China.
Looking back over the past 40 years, Wu attributed her success to bringing in an advanced business model and management strategy to the joint venture besides capital and technologies.
Starting from scratch, Wu got herself and her partners who were used to working under the planned economy well-informed about legal rules, concepts of joint-stock companies, double entry bookkeeping, and the clock-in system, and finally cultivated China's first joint venture into a pioneering enterprise covering 70 percent of the catering market at Beijing Capital International Airport.
China's rapid growth after the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy is reflected by the growth of "Sino-Overseas Joint Venture 001," said Wu.
PIONEER IN MOTHERLAND
Bustling between Hong Kong and the mainland never bores her. "Since 1979, I have dedicated myself and my business to China's reform and opening-up for almost 40 years. How lucky I am to witness decades of development and changes of my motherland!"
This paragraph is written in the preface of Wu's autobiography "Dialogues and Quotations of China's Reform and Opening-Up." This book offers readers a window on Wu's magnificent life: how she shuttled back and forth between Hong Kong and the mainland over the years, how she did business, education and charity, and how she served as a pioneer in her motherland during China's reform and opening-up process.
At the beginning of the reform and opening-up, businessmen from Hong Kong brought capital, technologies, talents, management experience and international market networks to the mainland, and helped the mainland grow into the world's factory.
To meet the mainland's increasing demand for professional services, Hong Kong further boosted its service sectors. After Chinese mainland entered the World Trade Organization, Hong Kong played a key role as a financial center thanks to its international strengths.
According to recent statistics, Hong Kong is the largest source of overseas direct investment in the mainland. By the end of 2017, among all the overseas-funded projects approved in the mainland, 44.9 percent were related to Hong Kong interests. Cumulative utilised capital inflow from Hong Kong accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total.
"Hong Kong is a city, as well as the country's Special Administrative Region, which serves not only its own citizens, but also the whole nation," said Wu.
With such a belief, she has frequented more than 30 provinces and cities in Chinese mainland and organized about 100 overseas delegations to visit the mainland. She paid special attention to under-developed areas.
Encouraged by tremendous changes in the motherland, Wu and her fellow Hong Kong entrepreneurs expect more.
"Reform and opening-up was China's first step. We will go further," said Wu firmly.
Wu described Hong Kong as a "super connector" between Chinese mainland and other nations, and she favors Hong Kong's role as such a connector.
"We're so honored to invite members from the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA) to Hong Kong. You can experience economic and social development after the handover of Hong Kong. You're also welcome to lead more cities in China to the world," said Wu in 1997, bidding for WTCA General Assembly to be held in Hong Kong for the first time.
A number of Hong Kong contributors have thrown themselves into paving the path to a wider world when the mainland started to "go outside" in the 1990s. Wu was among them. As a member of the WTCA council, she arranged overseas commercial activities for mainland companies and organizations. As a patriotic businesswoman, she funded study tours across the United States for Chinese teenagers.
"As an international platform, Hong Kong serves different roles in different stages of China's development. China now has entered a new era for building socialism with Chinese characteristics. So Hong Kong now functions as a major node on the Belt and Road Initiative to introduce Chinese enterprises into markets along the Belt and Road," she said.
"As an important city in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong can develop its strong points with high-level international competition to keep the Greater Bay Area in line with other famous bay areas over the world," said Wu.
Wu believes that the roles of Hong Kong and Hong Kong businessmen have been updated from an instructor to a partner as China's reform and opening-up deepen comprehensively.
Hong Kong used to lead the mainland into the international markets by bringing in advanced elements. Now Hong Kong will assist the mainland to make China more competitive in the world.
"Loving your motherland is the life-long romance," said Wu, "Ms. 001."
(Video editors: Cao Ying and Geng Linlin)