Who is Dong Mingzhu? One of China’s richest women, famous for domineering attitude to work

Profile | Who is Dong Mingzhu? One of China’s richest women, famous for domineering attitude to work

Dong Mingzhu, the chairwoman of Gree Electric, has triggered a heated online debate by suggesting that employees who want leisure time should “simply resign”.

It is not the first time she has been criticised for what some people consider her “sharp and unempathetic” remarks.

Controversy was sparked when Dong was asked for her opinion on her employees’ lifestyle in a recent interview with China’s Henan Broadcasting System.

“You can submit your resignation if you want to have leisure, no problem. I think it’s a personal choice,” said Dong.

“I haven’t taken a break in over 30 years. Do you think I’m at a loss or made a wrong choice? Personally, I feel very happy. Happiness has no standard, it comes from your heart,” she added.

When asked if reaching the age of 35 was a “hurdle” for many Chinese, as companies prefer to hire younger employees, she replied: “If no one hires you, you can start your own business.”

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Dong fought her way to the top of the corporate tree despite being a single mother. Photo: 163.com

Her remarks were perceived as heartless and elitist, leading to online backlash in which some people highlighted flaws in her logic.

One online observer said: “Working hard is indeed a responsibility, but does wanting leisure time mean they don’t work hard? Do workers have no right to leisure?

The Post takes a closer look at Dong and her views.

Rise to fame

Dong was undoubtedly a career role model for many young people who believed that her tenacious character is worth emulating.

In 1984, at the age of 30, she lost her husband and had to raise her two-year-old son alone.

Six years later, she left her hometown of Nanjing in southeastern China and went to Zhuhai in Guangdong province, southern China by herself to pursue a career.

At Gree Electric, she climbed the career ladder, becoming company chairwoman in 2012.

Controversy

In recent years, her sharp comments and domineering style have led to a shift in public opinion.

One of the best known disputes involved Meng Yutong, a 1999-born graduate of Zhejiang University in eastern China whom Dong personally selected as her secretary from a workplace reality show in 2021.

The pair frequently appeared together in live broadcasts: “I want to train her to be the next Dong Mingzhu,” said Dong.

However, Meng left Gree after less than two years, with many speculating that work pressure and an incompatible salary were the reasons.

Meng mentioned on her personal social media several times about Gree’s heavy workload, saying: “Who hasn’t had a complete weekend off in two months, and worked over 20 hours this weekend?”

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The businesswoman has attracted support and criticism on social media for her views. Photo: Sohu

After Meng’s departure, Dong allegedly criticised her publicly, and said: “She used our platform to become an internet celebrity. I can’t tolerate someone like that at Gree, so I fired her.”

Last year, her employee Wang Ziruo flattered her in another TV show stoking further controversy.

Wang said: “I have never read my pay slip at Gree. Even if I do nothing every day, just watching her in meetings, listening to her daily talks and actions, I feel it’s a blessing.”

Online observers said this explains why Dong remains aloof and unsympathetic towards her own workers.

“Sycophantic employees create an information cocoon for those in power,” said one person online.

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