Friday, October 17, 2008

Wang Yung-ching: The Republic of China Industrialist Who Most Deserves Our Respect

Wang Yung-ching: The Republic of China Industrialist Who Most Deserves Our Respect
United Daily News editorial
A Translation
October 17, 2008

The "Wizard of Entrepreneurship" Wang Yung-ching is dead. Both the ruling and opposition parties are sincere in mourning his passing. The legend of Wang Yung-ching spans more than half a century, and parallels Taiwan's economic miracle. More importantly, Wang Yung-ching's ascetic personal style, along with his bold and aggressive business style, has become the model for Taiwan businesses. The verdict is that Wang Yung-ching was a Captain of Industry. More than that, he was a shining example for entrepreneurs everywhere.

This industrialist never had a moment's rest. Right up until the moment of his death, he traveled overseas conducting inspections of his business operations. Not one day of his 92 year life was wasted. At 16 he borrowed 200 NT to start his own rice business. At 38 he wrote to Minister of Economic Affairs Yin Chung, asking for permission to invest in the plastics industry. It was then that Taiwan's petrochemical industry took its first step. Today, the annual output of the Formosa Plastics Group is 2.6 trillion NT. It employs over 80,000 workers. Two hundred NT, transformed into two trillion NT. Wang Yung-ching is not merely a legendary individual. He is a symbol of Taiwan's miraculous transformation from an agricultural society into an industrial society.

Wang Yung-ching was dubbed the "Wizard of Entrepreneurship" many years ago. But the success enjoyed by Wang Yung-ching and the Formosa Plastics Group is not the result of luck. It is the result of Wang's tenacity and perseverance. This entrepreneur, who had only an elementary school education, was not satisfied merely with the success of his rice business and lumber business. He was not satisfied with the dominance of his plastics empire. He wanted to establish the world's most advanced industries, in petroleum distillation, medical technology, biotechnology, electronics, optoelectronics, semiconductors. He continually renewed the Formosa Plastics Group, advancing with the times, never falling from his position of leadership.

Wang Yung-ching's businesses were not immune to setbacks and failures. The Formosa Plastics automobile plant and the mainland China Haicang plan failed to pan out as expected. His Formosa Chemicals and Fiber Corporation was targeted by the environmental movement. His plans for an Ilan Litse plant were blocked. These setbacks reflected the tide and times businesses had to bear. Wang Yung-ching never evaded such problems. If the times presented him with problems, he welcomed the opportunity to solve them. In fact, that very wave of social reform inspired the Formosa Plastics Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant Project in Miaoli. It inspired his plan for green and organic crop cultivation. Taiwan's aging population inspired the creation of a "Health Village." The predictable energy shortage inspired the establishment of numerous gas turbine electrical cogeneration projects. Not all of these projects bore fruit, but they all reflected Wang Yung-ching's endless creativity and his vision of a brighter future.

Just a few days before Wang Yung-ching's death, a list of Taiwan's most profitable businesses was released. At the top of the list was the Formosa Plastics Group. This was not surprising. The "Four Jewels of the Formosa Plastics Group" have long been the most robust, dependable, and highest yielding of Taiwan's blue chip stocks. Among the top 10 money-making consortiums, the Formosa Plastics Group is the only industrial firm. The rest are financial holding companies. Formosa Plastics has maintained its position as an industrial firm. It has refused to be swept up by recent trends in the financial industry. This underscores Wang Yung-ching's pragmatic and responsible style, and his accurate business judgement. He has never allowed financial considerations to limit his business decisions. This sort of socially responsibile behavior has earned Wang Yung-ching the trust of the community.

During times wracked by endless political turmoil, the Formosa Plastics family seldom became involved in public disputes. During times of financial instability, the Formosa Plastics Group avoided stepping on any land mines. During times plagued by endemic corruption, the Formosa Plastics Group has never been involved in scandals. Wang Yung-ching has sustained the legend of Formosa Plastics for half a century. His secret was not merely extraordinary courage, clearer vision, or more accurate calculations. His secret was his determination to establish a rigorous and effective business ethic, to impose strict standards upon himself in his pursuit of profit. Contrast this with the questionable relationships between politicians and businessmen and the rampant corporate opportunism that prevails today.

Compared to Koo Chen-fu, Wang Yung-ching lacked literary refinement. Compared to Morris Chang, Wang Yung-ching lacked an international outlook. Compared to Terry Gou, Wang Yung-ching lacked the high roller's willingness roll the dice. But decade after decade, Wang Yung-ching was visionary without being utopian, pragmatic without being staid, decisive without being impulsive. This sort of integrity is the essence of Taiwan's entrepreneurial spirit. In a moving speech he warned his children: "Wealth is merely something society permits us to temporarily manage and put to proper use." For half a century, two generations of people have worked for the companies he established. His contribution to Taiwan's economy, is hardly limited to being the founder of the Formosa Plastics empire.

Wang Yung-ching was born in Xindian. He made his fortune in Chiayi. His investments straddle Taiwan and the rest of the world. He died in New York. He will be buried in Taipei. Wang Yung-ching was a legend who stands astride space and time. Mr. Wang Yung-ching is the Republic of China Industrialist who most deserves our respect. He earned it.

2008.10.17 02:54 am


這位永不休息的經營者,直到他長眠前的一刻,還在越洋旅行進行業務考察。他九十二年的人生,可謂沒有一天虛度。從十六歲用借來的兩百元資金開了自己的米 行,到三十八歲那年寫信向經濟部長尹仲容自薦投資塑膠工業,邁出台灣石化工業的腳步;如今,台塑集團每年產值高達二點六兆,雇用了八萬多名工作者。兩百元 到兩兆多的變化,王永慶寫下的不只是他個人的傳奇,也是台灣從農業社會向工業社會蛻變的精采歷程。

雖然早就得到「經營之神」的稱譽,但王永慶和台塑集團的成功絕非僥倖,而是憑著堅韌的毅力,千錘百鍊出來的成果。這位僅有小學學歷的企業家,沒有滿足於米 行、木材行的成就,沒有佇足於塑膠王國的霸業,而是一路以全球先進產業為師,一路向輕油裂解、醫療、生物科技、電子半導體和光電等領域挺進,始終保持台塑 集團日新又新、與時俱進的領先地位於不墜。

王永慶的事業並非從未遭遇挫折與失敗。黯然結束的台朔汽車廠,功敗垂成的大陸海滄計畫,都未能如預期拓展。包括當年在環保運動中備受批評的台化公司,以及 在宜蘭利澤建廠受阻的計畫,都反映了企業在大時代浪潮中必須承受的衝擊。王永慶從不逃避問題,時代丟給他一個題目,他必正面迎對,想出解決辦法。正因為那 一波強大的社運浪潮,台塑有了在麥寮填海的六輕計畫,以及順勢而生的綠化及有機栽植計畫;就像因應台灣人口老化而有了「養生村」的成立,預見能源短缺而有 了多項汽電共生事業。這些事業雖未必皆有成績,但反映了王永慶轉動不停的頭腦與海闊天空的創意與企圖。

就在王永慶去世前幾日公布的台灣「最會賺錢」的企業中,台塑集團高居第一,這並不令人意外。長期以來,台灣股市的績優股,「台塑四寶」一直以其穩健、誠 信,獲利率高被列為指標。比較值得注意的是,在十大賺錢的財團中,台塑集團是唯一的製造業集團,其餘皆為金控集團。台塑保持其「製造業本位」的立場,沒有 涉足狂熱的金融浪潮,凸顯了王永慶的務實與負責的風格:以其精明準確,卻始終不願從事以錢套利的生意。這種有為有守,正是王永慶深受社會信賴的原因。

在政治波瀾不斷的年代,台塑家族極少捲入色彩爭議;在經濟泡沫的危機,台塑集團沒有誤蹈地雷;在貪瀆成風的時代,以台塑集團之龐大從未傳出非法醜聞。可以 想見,王永慶能維持台塑傳奇半世紀的屹立,祕訣不止是膽識過人、眼光獨到或精準算計而已;更令人嘆服的,是他建立了一套有效而嚴謹的企業倫理及軌範,並在 自我嚴格要求的標準中追求利潤。這點,對照今天台灣政商關係混濁,及企業浮華投機成風的情境,更是不易。

比起辜振甫,他少了一分文采;比起張忠謀,他少了豐富的國際背景;比起郭台銘,他沒有那種一擲千金的霸氣。但王永慶數十年如一日的兢兢業業,前瞻而不浮 誇、務實而不保守、果斷而不失穩健;這種正直及負責的品質,才是最珍貴的台灣企業精神。令人動容的是,他告誡子女:「財富只是社會讓我們暫時保管的錢,一 定要好好使用。」半世紀來,在他建立的企業中工作過的已超過兩代台灣人;他對台灣經濟的貢獻,絕對比台塑王國的基業要廣闊、深遠得多。


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