homeproducer interviewdemocracy?discussion
zhang wu, businessman, beijing

When producer Sue Williams first started chronicling Zhang Wu's life in 1998, he was running his own design firm, which he had set up a few years earlier after quitting his job at a state packaging company. He and his wife and son were still sharing a small apartment with his in-laws.

But Zhang had big plans. His new company, Beijing Armstrong, had nearly 100 people by 1998 and Zhang, who routinely worked 14-hour days, was set on teaching his young team new standards: to meet deadlines and use their initiative. "I have big ambitions. I want to do everything," said Zhang. "I have no time to rest." For Zhang, China's reform efforts perfectly matched his own capitalistic dreams.

Zhang's rise over the next few years was meteoric. By 2001, his company had become China's most successful corporate image business. And his personal life had changed dramatically too. Zhang moved his family into a penthouse in a luxury compound. He said that people in the past could never have imagined such a high standard of living. "If they had a bed and place to eat, that was enough," said Zhang. "When it comes to housing, my ambitions are boundless. As long as you have money, you can do anything."

watch the video

It's the year 2000 and corruption is escalating with the economic reforms. But Zhang Wu thrives, moving his family into a penthouse in one of Beijing's luxury compounds.

high (windows media)low (windows media)high (real player)low (real player)
windows media / realplayer
zhang wu with his wife and two children

Zhang Wu with his wife and two children.

By the time FRONTLINE finished filming, Zhang had learned his company would head the Chinese Design Committee, which would create the look for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

But Zhang tells producer Sue Williams that while he still relishes all the opportunities of China's reforms -- and boasts that his next apartment will be even more comfortable -- he also admits that some of his priorities are changing.

"Pretty soon I will be 40, 'the year when you are no longer bewildered,'" says Zhang. "I'm no longer a single person like in the past, when everyday I focused entirely on my work. ... When we have a little time, we usually devote it to educating the kids."


home + introduction + democracy, sooner or later? + producer interview + beijing music scene
faces of a new era + producer's chat + discussion + links & readings + chronology + teacher's guide
tapes & transcripts + press reaction + credits + privacy policy
FRONTLINE home + wgbh + pbsi

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation