Dr. James S. C. Chao, Self-made Shipping Tycoon
The interview opens with Dr. Chao reflecting on his previous two trips to Chengdu and how he thought that Chengdu would soon become the center of western China. “Now it appears that my judgment was correct”, he commented. He congratulates Chengdu for holding the World Entrepreneurs Conference, as it would be a wonderful opportunity for the upcoming generation of Chinese entrepreneurs.
Dr. Chao’s eldest daughter, The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, is very well known as the first Asian American female U.S. Cabinet member, but in fact, the whole Chao Family is very influential. Dr. James S. C. Chao is well known in the international community as the prestigious “Overseas Chinese Shipping Tycoon” as he founded and built Foremost Group from scratch in 1964. This company is now one of the largest in the American shipping industry and the octogenarian Dr. Chao, still serves as Chairman of the group today.
With Dr. Chao’s eldest daughter having served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Labor, his youngest daughter, Angela currently serves as Deputy Chair of Foremost Group and is the star of American business concerns.
Foremost Group is headquartered in New York, where Dr. Chao and his daughters Angela and Elaine accepted this interview. Dr. Chao mentioned that education is the secret to success. When it comes to the education of children, Dr. Chao says “Do not help too fast, do not micromanage, and do not expect too much.”
All six of his daughters were expected to learn Chinese culture, even in the United States where they grew up. The youngest daughter, Ms. Angela Chao, can even speak fluent Chinese.
Dr. Chao holds the spirit of diligence and good faith as the core factors how he and many other Chinese in the United States have been able to establish a foothold.
Over 80 years old, Dr. James Chao is still on time every day to deal with company affairs both large and small. Approximately 50 years ago, when he was almost 40, he came to the United States first and alone to forge a new life for he, his wife and daughters. The common feature of his generation is “hardship”, but it is precisely this quality that allows so many Chinese in the United States to persevere and set good foundations for generations afterwards.
Despite living in the U.S. for decades, Dr. James S. C. Chao will still say “in 1960, there were hundreds of shipping companies, but after decades of ups and downs, there is still Foremost Group.”
Although the Chao family is very low-key and private, this does not stop Chao Family foundations from awarding very generous educational donations in the name of his late wife, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao. Most recently, they donated $40 million to Harvard in the form of scholarships aimed towards Chinese students, and the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao educational building. In the past, the Chao family has also commemorated Ruth Mulan Chu Chao by donating other buildings and fueling other scholarships for deserving students in Chinese universities.
Dr. Chao’s six golden daughters are all being talked about for their great accomplishments. All six daughters went to Ivy League Universities and became very influential women in politics, business, advanced education, and the law.
Dr. Chao tells a story of raising his daughters. He said “When we moved houses, there was a 100 meter path that needed to be paved to reach the highway. My wife and I decided to give the task to our daughters.” He recollected, “We attached great importance to their teamwork, and wanted them to learn how to work together. Many people ask me the secret of educating children, and all I can say is (as he smiles) that actually, I would call it the three do nots: Do not help too fast, Do not micromanage, do not expect too much.” He considers these to be the most important educational guidelines, individualized to each daughter.
Impression of Cheng Du is that it has a very rich cultural heritage.
Although the Chao family has been living in the United States for many years now, Dr. Chao still frequently returns to China. He most frequents Shanghai, but his visit to Cheng Du also left a deep impression. In 1996, Dr. Chao made his first trip to Sichuan, touring the city, and climbed Emei Mountain. Then in 2008, he traveled through Cheng Du on his way to Tibet. “Cheng Du left me with the impression of a very rich cultural heritage coupled with a promising industrial and developmental center, which one can know for sure, will be an important center for western China.” Dr. Chao also said that he was pleased to see the World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention being held in Cheng Du., “Western China has so much land to develop in many exciting ways – it is a good place. I believe the participants will be much rewarded.” –Chengdu Chinese Commercial News Reporter Zhao Su Dispatched to New York
“Chinese businessmen will become increasingly important in the world”
Chengdu Chinese Commercial News Reporter sat before the elegant, competent and meticulous, The Honorable Elaine L. Chao.
The Honorable Elaine L. Chao gave some statistics about Asian Americans in the United States. “40 years ago, Asian Americans only accounted for about 1 % of the population, and now that percentage has risen to 5.7 %, with an expected rise to 6.7% by 2020. Chinese and Chinese businessmen are coming into the United States and will play a more influential role.” Elaine Chao still plays a very intricate role in many public causes, one being education. In fact, serving as the U.S. Secretary of Labor for 8 years, she attached great importance to exchanges and cooperation with China, and even represented the US Government in leading the U.S. delegation at the Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Wealthy Second Generation”: It’s a responsibility and not just for one’s enjoyment
Angela Chao, Dr. Chao’s youngest and smartest daughter, only took three years to graduate from Harvard University. She later completed her MBA at Harvard Business School. Now, over 30 years old, she serves as the Deputy Chair of Foremost Group.
When the Chengdu Business Daily reporter referred to the popular Chinese phrase “wealthy second generation”, Angela Chao smiled and said “yes, I have heard this phrase.” But Ms. Chao went on to say that her parents always told her that when a person’s fortune grows, that person’s responsibility also grows, so she believes that those who are “wealthy second generation” should do more, not less, because one has been a greater responsibility to do more with his or her blessings.
Angela Chao frequently travels back to China and has also visited Chengdu saying, “I specifically travelled to Cheng Du to see the pandas, and it was an unforgettable experience.”