November 29, 2021

Xu Jiayin, the megalomaniac boss of Evergrande who shakes the finance planet

Just ten years ago, Xu Jiayin appeared all smiles in Tiananmen Square on his way to the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference, of which he is a member. The billionaire had become one of the richest men in China three years earlier, after Evergrande’s IPO. Round face, carnivorous smile, smartphone in hand, he walks briskly, tie in the wind, chased by journalists. His open black jacket advantageously shows a large gold “H” which closes his belt. Estimated cost: 20,000 yuan (2,500 euros at the time).

At that time, a year before Xi Jinping came to power, so many delegates displayed their luxury accessories that Chinese netizens dubbed the political meeting Beijing “fashion week”. Xu Jiayin, for his part, will keep the nickname ” brother belt ».

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Evergrande, real estate giant on the brink of bankruptcy, shakes China’s economy

Today, the appetite of the real estate mogul, who loved to travel by private jet from one continent to another, could earn him a place on the Supreme Court’s blacklist, like many bosses with bills. unpaid, deprived of leaving the country, access to planes, high-speed trains and luxury hotels. His group, Evergrande, is one of the most indebted companies in the world: with 260 billion euros in debt, or more than 2% of Chinese GDP, it threatens the country’s financial stability. On Monday, October 4, the Chinese real estate giant suspended its operations on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange markets, without giving any explanation. Late on several deadlines due to Chinese and foreign investors, the Evergrande situation worries the world financial centers, which fear that China will know its « moment Lehman Brothers », named after the American investment bank whose bankruptcy precipitated the 2008 crisis.

A straw roof

If the connoisseurs of China believe that the country has the means to avoid such an earthquake, the difficulties of Evergrande are already weighing on real estate in general. Enough to affect Chinese growth, while the sector directly provides 15% of GDP and indirectly 30% by including related industries, such as steel and cement upstream, or furniture downstream. The fate of the former steelworker who once became the richest man in China is symptomatic of the successes that have contributed to China’s insolent growth over the past thirty years, and of the excesses it seeks today. to correct.

Xu Jiayin was born in the central province of Henan in 1958, in the midst of the Great Leap Forward famine, with a death toll of between 30 million and 50 million victims. His father is a former soldier who became a laborer. His mother died of an infection when he was only 8 months old: the family did not have the means to seek treatment for him. Jiayin is raised by his grandparents, under a straw roof that the rain passes through. His diet consists of sweet potatoes and mantou, steamed breads. After the Cultural Revolution, when education resumed its normal course, he was admitted to the Wuhan Iron and Steel Institute in 1978, and then spent ten years in a steelworks, ending up in the head of the establishment.

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