Lifestyle Business

Chinese drug rehab center donor was once a Binondo trader in 1986

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star
Chinese drug rehab center donor was once a Binondo trader in 1986
Huang Rulun, a 65-year-old Chinese real estate billionaire, has donated a 10,000-bed drug treatment and rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province to be operational this November.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial announced recently that China’s donation of a 10,000-bed mega drug treatment and rehabilitation center (TRC) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province will be fully operational by the first week of November.

Secretary Ubial said that the donor is famous 65-year-old Chinese real estate billionaire Huang Rulun, who was ranked as China’s No. 1 philanthropist in 2012 and who “has no business interest in the Philippines. All his businesses are in China.” She added that Huang had previously met President Rodrigo Duterte three times.

However, that is an incomplete account of the Huang Rulun saga and his connection to the Philippines, where he first made a small fortune via trading. Huang’s philanthropic act epitomizes the ancient Chinese proverb “Yin suey shi yuan” or “When drinking water, remember its wellspring,” meaning uphold the virtue of eternal gratitude. This philanthropy is also helping repair, restore and normalize the age-old bond of friendship between the Philippines and China of over a thousand years.

Forbes magazine estimates Huang’s net worth at US$3.9 billion. He controls Century Golden Resources Group which has more than 20,000 employees, 20 luxury hotels and 10 shopping malls. He is part-owner of the new Fuzhou Airlines.

Among his many charities for health and social welfare, he has promised to donate an art museum to Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University (which is China’s equivalent to USA’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Stanford University).

One of Huang’s reported closest friends in the Philippines is Uni-Orient Travel Agency boss Stephen Techico, who my sources told me had helped the billionaire during his early days as a starting and struggling trader in Manila’s historic Chinatown area of Binondo/Divisoria area in 1986. He was already a small trader in Fujian province, but he attained a modest fortune in Manila; then in 1991 he went back to Fujian to start investing in real estate where he really struck gold on his way to becoming a billionaire.

On Jan. 29, 2007, during my trip to China, I met some of Huang’s executives and was amazed to discover his inspiring “rags-to-riches” saga which is linked to the Philippines. No wonder this businessman has upheld the Confucian virtues of gratitude and generosity towards the country which once briefly gave him refuge and a place to do some business.

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Like many of Asia’s greatest taipans, such as Genting Highlands founder Lim Goh Tong of Malaysia, Li Ka Shing of Hong Kong, Tan Kah Kee of Singapore, or Formosa Plastics Group founder Wang Yung Ching of Taiwan, Huang was born to a poor farming family in the rural part of Fujian province in Linjiang county. He couldn’t afford formal schooling, so he never forgot how hard life was as a poor person. He told media that he was motivated to be philanthropic due to the ancient Confucian teaching that “successful people should give.”

Huang Rulun is the legendary rags-to-riches taipan behind the Jinyuan Group or the Golden Resources realty and investment conglomerate. Even the New York Times and other foreign media outfits have reported about him in recent years for his mega-projects, like the world’s biggest mall in Beijing, and for being China’s top philanthropist from 2003 to 2005.

The Chinese media reported that the 2005 list of 50 top philanthropists in China, researched seperately by Westerner Rupert Hoogewerf and by Chinese scholar Hu Yun, showed that they donated about three percent of their private assets to charities focusing mainly on education and health care. Of all of China’s top 50 philanthropists, Huang Rulun has been the most magnanimous; he donated about $48 million from 2003 to 2004. What is more significant, while other good-hearted new tycoons of China averaged donations of three percent of their private assets, Huang’s philanthropic donations amounted to 19 percent of his private assets. His top charities were in education, poverty elimination and heath care.

School Dropout Becomes World Mall Leader

Aside from owning big luxury hotels, like the five-star Century Golden Resources Grand Hotel in Beijing, Huang Rulun also developed Beijing’s largest commercial and residential development project known as Century City, which has total land area of 440 acres. The New York Times once reported that he is the biggest shopping mall developer-owner in the world because this complex has 110 residential condominiums, complete with schools and office buildings. This sprawling complex has 3.7 million square meters of prime real estate.

Huang is a pragmatic person. He once turned down his son’s suggestion to establish a philanthropic foundation, because he believes that his core competence was in entrepreneurship and business. So, he would rather focus on his strengths and instead write out checks to donate to socio-civic causes.

When he first came into the Chinese media limelight in 2005, records showed that on top of Huang Rulun’s total philanthropic donations amounting to $35 million, he paid $600 million in taxes. More than just being a philanthropist, Huang is a rare example in Asia of an upright businessman who honestly pays his taxes, regardless of the widespread corruption in governments across our continent.

Despite his family’s poverty, in his chok-pho or genealogical book (which all Chinese families have regardless of social class unlike in Europe where only royal families record their lineage), one of Huang Rulun’s ancestors was Huang Gan, a student and son-in-law of the well-known neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi who lived 1,000 years ago in the southern Song Dynasty. He often tells media that traditional Confucian values guide his life and motivate his generous charities.

The usually low-profile Huang has become famous in China, and his rags-to-riches saga includes an important interlude in the rugged trading area of Manila’sBinondo/Divisoria Chinatown area, which has been producing tycoons since the Spanish colonial era to the John Gokongweis and Lucio Tans of the modern era.

A school dropout at age 15 due to poverty, he was already operating small businesses back in Fujian province, while his rich and middle-class peers were studying or busy dating. His big break came when he was 35 and migrated to the Philippines in the 1980s, following the centuries-old tradition of Fujianese emigration to Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Jakarta and other places in Nanyang or the South Seas.

Filipino-Chinese tycoons said Huang used to live in a modest condominium unit in Binondo Terraces, and he started with a modest capital, but he was a workaholic, disciplined, frugal and always had big dreams. After a few years of doing trade in Binondo to add to his capital and international perspective, he then decided to set up a base in the international financial hub of Hong Kong, not unlike Malaysia’s Shangri-La Group taipan Robert Kuok Hock-Nien. From there, he built up his realty empire with projects in Singapore, Malaysia and Spain.

Today, Huang Rulun’s Golden Resources empire nationwide has four major centers covering the north of China from Beijing, the east region with Shanghai, the west region with Chongqing, and the south region with Fuzhou City.

Hardworking, known for meticulous attention to detail and for his hands-on management style, as well as keeping family at the core of his empire, the self-made taipan’s only known hobby is the occasional round of golf he plays, though very rarely due to his hectic daily work schedule. He personally inspects his various construction sites at least three times a day.

In the taipan’s Beijing corporate headquarters, hanging on the wall is a scroll with elegant traditional Chinese calligraphy written by the self-taught Rulun, which summarizes his business and life philosophies: “Honesty and credibility are the foundation stones of a pioneering business. Nurturing people is the basis of founding a country, and the combination of these two allows people to sit in a command tent, creating strategies that will ensure victory a thousand miles away... A person of integrity is also a sincere one; he keeps his word, makes good whatever he promises, and at the same time, he should take social responsibility.”

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Thanks for your feedback! Email [email protected] or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and read my new blog wilsonleeflores.com.


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