Wang's World

As China opens its economy, homegrown tycoons are trying to export their freewheeling ways to America

In an electronics-research lab in Hangzhou, China, at the Holley Group, one of the most talked about and admired private companies in China, a team of mobile-phone engineers was very busy on a recent weekday morning--busy reading sports articles and playing solitaire and Ping-Pong. One engineer, at least, worked on a circuit board, prying it out of a plastic handset with a box cutter. "This team is young," said a supervisor. "They don't really know what they're doing."

A similar learning curve faces the celebrity executives leading some of China's top private companies. Most came of age during early capitalist reforms,...

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