The Plight of Chinese Entrepreneurs – Exclusive Interview with Hanhou Founder: Sold Over 300 Properties to Clear 1.5 Billion Debt

On the last day of 2023, in Guangzhou’s Guangzhou Broadcasting Center Building, we met with Wang Guoan, founder of Hanhou. Contrary to the typical image of a “deadbeat debtor,” Wang appeared sharp in a suit and full of energy. His office at Hanhou’s headquarters seemed business as usual, and he enthusiastically showed us around.

The building, boasting an excellent location near the Liede Bridge and along the Pearl River, offers a 180-degree panoramic view from each floor, including a clear sight of Guangzhou’s landmark, the Canton Tower. In Guangzhou, having a view of the Canton Tower from a residence or office signifies prime real estate.

“Tired of looking at the Canton Tower, I saw it every day from my residence in Huiyue Terrace, and even in the office, I couldn’t escape it,” Wang joked. He pointed to a high-rise across the river, “That’s Huiyue Terrace, Guangzhou’s top luxury property, where I used to live. When my house was auctioned, many neighbors said I single-handedly drove down the property values there.”

The auctioned Huiyue Terrace property, a luxurious 365 square meter apartment, was valued at 100 million yuan by’s legal auction platform, with a starting bid of only 70 million yuan. Wang anticipated it might sell for 80 million yuan, but that would barely dent his massive debt.

Hanhou, a well-established cosmetics brand, once splurged 200 million yuan for naming rights on Jiangsu Satellite TV’s “Happiness Theater” and the show “If You Are the One,” plus another 200 million for a five-year LED advertisement on the Canton Tower. At its peak, Hanhou paid over a hundred million yuan in taxes annually.

In 2018, a planned acquisition of Hanhou by a listed company for 2 billion yuan put Wang in the spotlight. However, a personal dispute soon dragged him into a quagmire. The acquisition fell through, the IPO failed, banks demanded loan repayments, investors demanded buybacks, and suppliers sought compensation for goods. At one point, Wang’s debt soared to 1.5 billion yuan.

Reflecting on this, Wang’s face showed a trace of helplessness: “Now I rent and can’t see the Canton Tower anymore, which is actually a relief.”

Previously keen on property investments, Wang owned over 300 properties at his peak. Eventually, he sold most to pay off debts, leaving only the Huiyue Terrace apartment and a seized parking spot.

Wang openly admits to being a “deadbeat debtor.” He acknowledges that his personal disputes hindered Hanhou’s growth but took on all the loans and buybacks himself. “I could have abandoned Hanhou and lived freely, but I couldn’t do that. Over a hundred employees at Hanhou are counting on me,” he said passionately. “Which entrepreneur doesn’t have a few friends who have unwillingly become debtors? Being a deadbeat isn’t shameful; what’s shameful is abandoning your mess without taking responsibility.”

He argues that entrepreneurs who become debtors due to business risks shouldn’t be stigmatized. They deserve trust and leniency, giving them the confidence to continue their entrepreneurial journey and contribute to economic growth.

Wang, known for his bold character and determination, remains as dynamic as ever. When discussing emotional topics, he can’t help but gesticulate and slam the table. His reactions are diligently captured by a small media team he now carries with him, ready to share highlights on his Douyin account “Wang Dare Dare.”

Determined to expose his struggles publicly, Wang sees value in gaining online traffic. “What do I have to lose? I’ve already lost face.”

Although he’s subjected to travel restrictions, Wang admits he still can’t “downgrade” his lifestyle, attending gatherings where friends still treat him to expensive Moutai liquor and Zhonghua cigarettes.

“My clothes are expensive; not one piece is under ten thousand yuan,” he said, standing to show off his exquisite suit. “Though bought five years ago, they’re still in great quality. An entrepreneur’s spirit cannot collapse.”

However, we noticed his iPhone, unshielded by a case and badly cracked, a stark contrast to his expensive attire.