Chan Laiwa

  • December 23, 2010
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Chan Laiwa
Celebrated entrepreneur Chan Laiwa is head of Fu Wah International [Women of China]

Celebrated entrepreneur Chan Laiwa is head of Fu Wah International, a well known Hong Kong registered multinational firm. She is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Politically active Chan is also curator and founder of the China Red Sandalwood Museum. As an acknowledged cultural diplomat she facilitates exchanges between her museum and others overseas such as the Smithsonian.


Chan Laiwa is a descendant of the Manchu dynasty that ruled China from 1644 to 1911. Born in 1941 in the Summer Palace, poverty forced Chan to leave education after high school. Having scraped up enough to start a furniture repair business, she moved to Hong Kong where, in the early 1980s, she finally hit pay-dirt. The amount she earned there from buying and re-selling furniture accumulated her enough venture capital to buy 12 villas. Chan says that poverty was the best college education she could have hoped for.

Chan moved back to Beijing in the late 1980s to explore business possibilities on the mainland. Having already made a strategic shift from Hong Kong and set up subsidiaries in Australia and various countries in Southeast Asia, the 1990s Asian financial crisis left her unscathed. She has since carried on making substantial real estate investments.

Ms Chan founded in the early 1990s Fu Wah International, a well known registered multinational firm in Hong Kong. It supports a diverse portfolio of businesses and entrepreneurial ventures in the fields of real estate, tourism, electronics, the hospitality industry and red sandalwood art production, among others. Many of its real estate projects have been completed and others are being developed. Fu Wah Operational projects cover more than 1,300,000 square meters.

Social Responsibility

When asked about the secret of her success, Chan smiles and attributes it to a sense of responsibility. It was responsibility for her company and staff that first fueled her efforts. She then took stock of the company's unshirkable responsibility to society and country, and began doing works for the public good in the course of developing her business. Ms Chan is convinced that the success of longstanding companies such as Giant International is attributable to the core strategic role of social responsibility.

Ms Chan has made preserving and promoting China's traditional culture a personal campaign, as manifest in her setting up of the China Red Sandalwood Museum -- the first and largest privately owned museum specializing in Red Sandalwood Furniture Art.

Red Sandalwood Passion

As Ms Chan grew up amid red sandalwood furniture from inherited from her noble ancestors, it has always held a fascination for her.

In 1999, Ms Chan invested 20 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) in building the China Red Sandalwood Museum. Situated at No.23 Jianguo Road in Beijing's Chaoyang district, and covering an area of 25,000 square meters, the China Red Sandalwood Museum combines magnificence and dedication, antiquity and modernity. It is one of a kind in China.

Ms Chan admits that the museum has cost her more than any real estate investment. It moreover needs constant investment for maintenance purposes and generates no profits. But Chan never expected it to. "As the museum is constantly in the red it will not pay me back economically, the investment in this culture project might not be successful. But I have never doubted its potential. At a conservative estimate, the museum's red sandalwood furnishings are worth in their entirety at least US$ 0.2 billion." Ms Chan is set on carrying forward this cultural heritage of classical architecture and red sandalwood craft for posterity.

Ms Chan's development of Chinese red sandalwood culture has won support and affirmation from the government and all social sectors. Her work has also earned recognition from international society. President George W. Bush invited Ms Chan to the US National Prayer Breakfast in February, 2003 and to the Inaugural celebration of the 51st president and vice president in January, 2005.

(Sources: and edited by

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