Q: Why did you choose to play the outsider role (briefly a top executive at Acer, but then quit to teach at China Europe Business School after helping Mr Shih make a successful transition, and not full-time at Tencent)?
Yang Guoan: I like to do some challenging work — a big transformation. I am interested in strategic and planned work. After stability, I will be in daily management, meeting, communication and coordination every day.This is also related to my initial intention and bottom value choice.
Q: Where does this underlying value come from?
Yang Guoan: It probably dates back to my first visit to the mainland in 1981.It was the first time that I went out of Hong Kong and took a hard sleeper by train to participate in the Exchange tour of Nanjing University held by The University of Hong Kong.
Went to find that I am Chinese, since then there has been a strong identity.At that time, there was a song “Descendants of the Dragon” which was very popular, and young people were singing it.Feel the mainland students are very simple, feel very close to them, there is no distance.In the evening, we talked about two things in the room. We talked about ideals, and none of us talked about making money. We sang together “My Motherland”, “The Yellow River” and “Descendants of the Dragon”.For me, I feel that I, as a person, in my life, should be able to contribute at this critical moment.
I also read Chinese history and know that the Opium War was fought behind.At that time, the mainland had just reformed and opened up, and felt that there was a new opportunity.Having received a modern education in Hong Kong, I have always wondered how I could help the Mainland develop the “four modernizations” at such a historic moment.So over the next three years, I came at least five or six times.
Q: Did you decide to study management when you got back?
Yang Guoan: Yes.Foreign investment was introduced, there were some new buildings, sets of computers, but I found these buildings were clean at the beginning, but they were not maintained, and they were badly managed.When the computer comes and doesn’t work, it’s put away.I also often see that one person is working while several people are watching. In short, there are many unreasonable places, low efficiency and backward management.
Therefore, Before graduation, I had already figured out my future path — studying abroad for a doctor’s degree, combining international majors, and returning to the mainland to teach in universities to cultivate talents and help the mainland to modernize.
Q: It means you already have a purpose in life in college.
Yang Guoan: This is the way you found the road behind me.After reading the book, I always wanted to go back to the mainland.I do not read pure theory, hope to combine with practice, can help solve practical problems.
I haven’t changed direction or path in all these years.Dream is not an alarm clock that goes off after a while.
Q: I heard from your wife that shortly after you started school she noticed that you were thinking about “where you end up.” She emphasized “starting with the end.” Why did you think that?Was there anyone who influenced you growing up?
Yang Guoan: I remember thinking about these questions as a child.I was born in a very poor family, more than ten square meters of room, live us six brothers and sisters, and my father, mother.I slept on the floor at night.The kitchen is in the hallway and the bathroom is one of the main areas of the building and it stinks.But I was lucky to live in a building. My brothers and sisters were all born in makeshift tin houses on the top of the hills.
My father sold fruit and walked around carrying a load, and my mother raised pigs.The surrounding environment is very chaotic, a lot of children join gangs, drugs, fighting, in the middle of the night, with a knife to fight.
I was the youngest in my family. My brothers and sisters went to work in factories after they graduated from primary and middle schools.This is not the way I want to go.I want to get ahead. The only way to get out of poverty is to go to a University in Hong Kong and join the middle class.My parents did not give me any pressure in study. They played since childhood, but they also got good grades.The whole family has to work, I have been a “cook” since junior high school, after class at 3:30 in the afternoon, I went to buy vegetables, ready to make dinner, finish dinner and go to play.There was a little time left in the evening to do my homework, so I learned early to be efficient.
Have you ever been in a fight?
Yang Guoan: We all fought when we were children.
When I graduated from primary school, my father wanted to arrange me to learn to repair clocks. In fact, it was a good choice and I had a skill. But I thought everything would go forward a few steps.I should have had a ten-year plan since I was 11 or 12 years old. Before I was 20, I wanted to enter a university in Hong Kong.But the family had no money and could not afford it.So Every year from the first year of high school until I finished my Ph.D., I got a scholarship, not from home.