In the 1950s, Zhang Xin’s parents, third generation Burmese Chinese, left Burma and immigrated to China, leaving behind their confectionery business. There, they worked as translators at the Bureau of Foreign Languages. They separated during the Cultural Revolution.
Born in Beijing in 1965, Zhang Xin moved to Hong Kong at the age of 14 with her mother and lived in a room just big enough for two bunk beds. To save for an education abroad, she worked for five years in small factories that make garment and electronic products. As she has described, the ‘conditions there were similar to those in mainland China today’.
By 19, she had saved enough for airfare to London and supporting herself for English study at secretarial school. Later, she studied Economics at the University of Sussex. In 1992, she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Development Economics from Cambridge University. In 2013, Zhang Xin received honorary Doctor of Laws from her Alma Mater, University of Sussex.
Upon graduation, she was hired by Barings Plc to work in Hong Kong. She soon moved to Goldman Sachs and started working for the investment bank in New York City. In 1994, she switched to Travelers Group before returning to her hometown, Beijing. She co-founded Hongshi (meaning Red Stone), which became SOHO China, with her husband Pan Shiyi in 1995.
The couple was described by The Times of London as ‘China’s most visible and flamboyant property tycoons’.
SOHO China is the largest prime office property developer in Beijing and Shanghai with 5.5 million square meters in developments. The company is widely acclaimed for its iconic landmark building designed by international architects such as Kengo Kuma , Seung H-Sang, LAB Architecture Studio and Zaha Hadid.
Zhang Xin has won many prestigious international awards for her role as a patron of visionary architecture in China and as an innovative entrepreneur. She won BusinessWeek´s Stars of Asia Award for the year of 2004, and was awarded a Special Prize at the 8th la Biennale di Venezia for Commune by the Great Wall, a private collection of architecture featuring the works of twelve Asian architects. Commune by the Great Wall is now a boutique hotel. She also received the Year 2004 Montblanc Arts Patronage Award. In 2007, she was selected as one of the “Ten Women to Watch in Asia” by the Wall Street Journal. In 2008, she was listed among Forbes magazine’s “World’s Most Powerful Women”. In 2009, Zhang Xin was included among Forbes’ “Top Ten Billionaire Women We Admire” and Financial Times’ “Top 50 Women in World Business”. In March 2010, she was named among “China Top 10 Career Women Role Models in 2009” by the All-China Women’s Federation, China Sun Media Group, Sina.com and Hunan TV. In 2011, Zhang Xin was named among the “The International Power 50” of the “Most Powerful Women” by Fortune magazine, and was again recognized as one of “World’s Most Powerful Women” by Forbes.
As of 2014, she is listed as the 62nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. title