Religion Changes a Chinese Billionaire

Chinese businesswoman Zhang Xin is a billionaire who made much of her money in the real estate sector. She co-founded and served as the former CEO of SOHO China, a Chinese office building developer, along with her spouse Pan Shiyi. On September 7, 2022, she gave up her position as CEO in order to devote her time to her religious faith, charitable endeavors and the promotion of the arts.

Zhang was born and raised in impoverished conditions in Beijing and Hong Kong, where she worked as a factory worker for five years before eventually becoming the owner of businesses in charge of numerous real estate projects in Beijing and Shanghai. Zhang started shifting from a business strategy of developing and reselling properties to one of purchasing and leasing them in the middle of the decade. Zhang also purchased significant shares in the Park Avenue Plaza and General Motors Building in New York City. Zhang is “often recognized one of the top businesswomen in the world,” according to Forbes, who ranked her as the 62nd most influential woman in the world in 2014. Forbes has previously listed Zhang and her husband as one of the “world’s most powerful couples.” Zhang, one of the most well-known female business owners in China, has a 10 million-strong online following on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

Zhang insist she is not the women she once was. Including finding the Baha’i Faith changed everything. stating: “Baha’i has transformed me.”

Zhang believes that religion, and the Baha’i Faith in particular, may aid China in closing the gap between its rapid economic progress and its lagging spiritual development. Baha’i, a relatively recent faith, emphasizes the spiritual oneness of all people. She posted on Weibo that: “True happiness comes from within, is an eternal pursuit and is not affected by the environment, but through our own efforts to change the environment and bring happiness to others.” Also stating: “We’ve put too much confidence that materialistic abundance will bring along better education, which will in turn facilitate progresses in civilisation.”

Zhang has been inspired to focus more on philanthropy as a result of her quest for a more spiritual existence. She is currently concentrating on programs for kids in her husband’s native region of Gansu, which is isolated and underprivileged. The SOHO China Foundation has given Rmb59.4 million to projects of a similar nature over the last five years.