Since his first job as a rural bricklayer more than 50 years ago, Gong Xuebin has built an international food empire with a huge stake in the Japanese market and others across the world.
However, in recent years Gong has turned his sights on his home market, because “Chinese people have enough money to buy expensive, high-quality food now”, he said.
Gong Xuebin, a 73-year-old farmer-turned entrepreneur from Laiyang, Shandong province, is president of Longda Foodstuff Group. Gong also diversified, setting up a furniture company, Longda Group Wood Processing Co Ltd, in early 1992. Eighteen years later, its foreign-exchange earnings have reached 30 million yuan per annum. It is now one of the biggest manufacturers for the Swedish furniture company Ikea.
When Ingvar Kamprad, the Swedish business magnate and founder of Ikea, came to China in the summer of 2009, Longda was one of the companies he visited.
Gong Xuebin met his partner in his wood-processing factory instead of the more traditional office setting.
The 84-year-old Kamprad and Gong, aged 73, squatted on their heels, and spent an enjoyable 30 minutes assembling furniture together.
Gong believes that hard work is the natural path to success for farmer-businessmen in modern China. During the meeting with Kamprad, Gong told him in Chinese: “I am so encouraged to see that you are still working at your age.”