Free Trade: Look Out, Whirlpool

Appliance maker Haier quietly went global, and now its white goods are everywhere

FORTUNE's Global 500 is a barren place for Chinese companies. The lowest-ranked firms on the list book $10.3 billion in revenues, and only a handful of mainland companies in banking, telecom, oil and chemicals make the cut. No Chinese manufacturer of consumer goods qualifies. But an upstart called Haier plans to be there soon.

In the past few years, Haier has quietly become the world's sixth largest home-appliance maker. Based in the coastal city of Qingdao and led by a quality-obsessed 52-year-old CEO, Zhang Riumin, Haier has factories in Asia, Europe and the U.S., which produce "white goods" from washing...

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