Ye Jianming’s Enterprise Road: In Pursuit of Enduring Success through “Perfect Goodness Which Completes Heaven and Earth”

Ye Jianming, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CEFC China Energy Company Limited (hereafter referred to as “CEFC China”), has been advocating ideas like pursuing “perfect goodness” to “complete Heaven and Earth”, “uniting individuals for a collective cause by tolerating private desires”. Such pioneering exploration of the “enterprise road” is quite enlightening.

Cnyuan believes that enterprises in China have experienced three stages of development since the implementation of the Reform and Opening-up policy. The first is the stage of “guts” in the 1980s, a stage pioneered by Nian Guangjiu of the Shazi Guazi (Fool’s Sunflower Seeds), and topped by Mu Qizhong and his Nande Group, when virtually anyone who got the guts to go into business could earn big money. The second is the stage of “skills” (of management) from the 1990s to the 2000s. It was a stage focusing on the competition of skills and guts, with the former guiding the latter. Typical examples include Shi Yuzhu and his DHA, or Lenovo and its conception of “technology, industry and trade”. However, the decline of DHA and Lenovo later indicates that skills of management alone cannot ensure competitive edges. The third is the stage of “roads”, featuring the competition of skills and guts under the direction of roads. At a time when Chinese enterprises are fully engaged in global competition, and international standards have already been accepted in the competition of skills, only by guiding “western skills” with “Chinese roads” can they create new competitive edges and evolve into transnational corporations with Chinese features. Typical examples include Huawei and China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC) China.

An enterprise’s “road” is its core value. A road can be good, evil, or domineering. An “evil road” ventures on the evils of human nature. Although it can acquire wealth rapidly, it will eventually evoke disgust and resistance from the society. A “domineering road” relies on power and privileges to extract profits, yet it will inevitably crumble under great internal and external stresses once the power structure changes. In contrast, a “good road” aims to satisfy the legitimate demands of the nation and society, to help others achieve before accomplishing oneself. This has already been proved by the enduring success of time-honored companies like Beijing Tong Ren Tang.

Ye Jianming, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CEFC China, has been advocating ideas like pursuing “perfect goodness” to “complete Heaven and Earth”, “uniting individuals for a collective cause by tolerating private desires”. Such pioneering exploration of the “enterprise road” is quite enlightening. Therefore, extractions from some of his speeches are herein compiled and presented to the reader.

Command of wealth starts with command of one’s heart.

Good management of a private enterprise only comes in two ways: first, establish a powerful backstage with strict standards, for no good results will be achieved without such a backstage; second, after strict standards are made in the backstage, allow those in the front stage to play by themselves and make profits fair and square. If one relies solely on management system to run an enterprise, the system will become an empty shell in the end.

There are just two ways of management for a private enterprise. One is institutional management, the other is human management. The core of human management is culture, which aims to bring one’s heart to the right place. If the heart is not in the right place, people will become unscrupulous, and institutions will be unable to control people.

The essence of command is to first command oneself instead of others. It’s the same case with wealth. Wealth that is out of your command is nothing but numbers.

The power of spirit is the highest power.

The 5000-year-long history of human civilization is one filled with contradictions and conflicts. The constant conversion and unity of opposites will lead to an ultimate direction in the end. Once you make a decision, it can bring either good or bad luck, but things are changeable in a dynamic way. Good luck can embody bad luck, while bad luck can also be turned into good luck. How? It’s just a matter of direction. Conflicts inevitably result in changes. In this process, if disasters happen, it is bad luck, which means you must adjust your direction. Whether this new direction can turn bad luck into good one depends on your inside, on your accumulation of goodness, on your power of spirit. What is the highest power? It’s that an idea of yours can turn nil into existence and make all your wishes come true.

A vital quality that distinguishes you from others is whether you can be more courageous, more tolerant and loving than others, which is termed the “heart of compassion” in Buddhism. If one with many skills is not compassionate, he will definitely become a demon; on the other hand, if one has the heart of compassion, he will very likely be more powerful than those with the same skills. Even if he sets out in a wrong direction, he will eventually step onto the road of goodness. That is what we mean by our culture of “Arising with Strength and Achieving with Goodness”.

There is no better state than goodness.

What is a Bodhisattva? In Sanskrit, it has two meanings. First, it is an enlightened person who is in harmony with Heaven. Second, it is an enlightened person with the heart of compassion. If compassion is missing, enlightenment might turn out to be a bad thing. That is exactly what makes gods different from demons in Buddhism. An enlightened person can either be a god or a demon. If he is compassionate, he becomes a god, a Bodhisattva. Therefore, a Bodhisattva is one who is both enlightened and compassionate. In ancient China, people talked about the great learning. So what does the great learning teaches us in essence? It is to illustrate bright virtues, and to make people achieve perfect goodness in the long run. The ultimate goal in the world is goodness. There is no better state than this.

The greatest goodness of human kind is to complete Heaven and Earth.

What is the greatest value of a human being? It’s perfect goodness which completes Heaven and Earth. Everyone comes to this world with a mission. Farmers, for example, are extremely valuable for their engagement in agricultural production. Without them, there will be no food. Why can human beings exist in this world? Why do human beings exist? All human beings have their own values, the embodiment of which is their undertakings.

All fame, power and wealth are just tools. If you are aware of your own value and succeed in doing your job, they will naturally follow you. If not, they will evade you, or escape you in the end even if you can hold them for a while. Fame, power and wealth, all these can be illusory. Just think of Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, who was expelled from the Forbidden City. Later when the palace was returned to him, he dared not to live in it, but moved out himself.

The reason why we live in this world is to complete Heaven and Earth. Maybe different people play different roles, but even farmers serve to make Heaven and Earth complete. Without them, where do we get our food? As a national enterprise in China, we are bound to serve the country. This is where we position ourselves.

In harmony with Heaven, with Earth, with People, and with Inner-selves.

In dealing with the relations between man and nature, man and society, man and man, and man and self, we have to resort to the “Four-Dimension Harmony Culture”. Then what are the four dimensions? First, to be in harmony with Heaven means to seize opportunities bestowed by nature. Timing is crucial in space and time. Chances will be lost if we are not sensitive to it. We have to follow the trend of the times because chances are embodied in changes. Second, to be in harmony with Earth means to be inclusive and tolerant, like the sea embracing hundreds of rivers. Third, to be in harmony with People means to be kind and integral, treating all others on an equal footing, because everyone is equal in dignity. Fourth, to be in harmony with Inner-selves means to assume responsibility with courage and dedication.

Everything in the universe arises with strength and is achieved with goodness.

Everything in the universe arises with strength and is achieved with goodness. Strength is a combination of forces. The law of the universe is first and foremost the law of attraction. Attraction is vital to a collective. The concentration of all forces into one point makes for a great cause. But what is it for? This calls for goodness. Goodness consists of “great” and “small” ones. Therefore, what is the great goodness? The great goodness is that we position ourselves as a national enterprise that strives to serve our nation and people. This is a vision shared by all of us, a goal worthy of life-time pursuit. What is the small goodness? The small goodness refers to accommodate individuals with personal accomplishments while fighting for the great cause. The platform is provided to everyone. The more you contribute, the more you harvest. We speak of two accomplishments: first of yourselves, then of CEFC, which in turn benefits the nation.

The one who takes responsibility for himself can take responsibility for everyone else.

The Dao is the underlying principle behind the creation of the myriad things. The order of the process giving rise to the myriad things began with the Dao producing a kind of generative force. Just like the noumenon, phenomenon, and function, which are emphasized by Buddhism. Phenomenon and function, behind noumenon, are in movement. One needs to hold the noumenon, which is at still. For a person, personality is the most important. Personality will not change, but anything else will change. If you can take responsibility for yourself, you are inclusive and take responsibility for everyone else. Taking responsibility for others is spurious, which is phenomenon and subordination. If your personality is problematic and you fail to be responsible for yourself, you will become a waverer and will never know what to do. Only if you take responsibility for yourself, you can bear down everything.

A philosopher once said that only God and yourself know what you have done. Thus, whatever you do, only yourself have a clear conscience regardless how many excuses you can find. You can find false reasoning but your conscience knows the truth. If you have a guilty conscience, you will be weak and fail at last. Therefore, taking responsibility is believing in yourself rather than in others. Why shall the right track ultimately lead to success despite twists and turns? Because once choosing the right track, you dare to take responsibility, have a broad mind, and have the capability of solving every problem, crisis and contradiction.

Company is a supplement to the government and society.

What is a company? A Company is a supplement to the government and society. It represents the combination of public power and private property. How important is the function of a company? In practice, it functions as an important relief of the government and society and solves the problem of organizing and allocating of social wealth. In fact, a company is like a society.

Devotion to the country and the society ensures an enterprise’s endurance and prosperity.

The development of any group implies that enterprise thrives only if it occupies the moral high ground. The history also shows the same path. Why did only Zhu Yuanzhang stand out and found the Ming Dynasty among so many forces? In the beginning his strength was of the weakest. Why did Zoroastrianism arise in the end period of Yuan Dynasty? Because at that time the Han people were of the lowest social level and were the most dissatisfied and resistant. By the decree of god, Zoroastrianism motivated the courage of their hearts. However, Zhu believed that this reasoning was not practical. After he took Nanjing, he changed the slogan to “to expel the northern barbarians and to revive Zhonghua”. He stood at the moral high ground and had the most influential power, which led to his success.

Hu Xueyan, a prominent businessman of Qing Dynasty, served and contributed a lot to the country, including recovery of Xinjiang. At that time, Zuo Zongtang, a top general of the Qing government, had no money. However, Hu provided loans for the general to purchase weapons and he bore the interests. Hu did not know whether the Qing government would return the money because the government had no money at all. Nevertheless, Hu’s strategic poisoning was very clear — for the interest of the country. At last, he succeeded. However, later he hoarded all the mulberry silk and did not sell it out. He was doomed to death because he harmed the country’s interests for his own fame and fortune. Hu controlled a large amount of silk and had the international strategy of dealing with Hong Kong and Shang Hai Banking Corporation (HSBC). He could have made greater contribution for the country but he did not. Without a reasonable reasoning, you will be defeated regardless of how strong you are.

Only if you serve and contribute to the country and society, your reasoning is reasonable and your enterprise will last and prosper. CEFC implements a strategy of expanding overseas resources and serving the country. CEFC’s overall arrangement, from strategy to culture, advocates kindness, follows the national strategy and serves the country. Despite the loss of profits, we also have established many non-profit and non-government platforms. The reasoning is reasonable and we are destined to succeed. If we only serve for certain persons, we will not last long.

Creating value for the society will surely gain social acceptance.

In the world, people always regard the achievement of self-value as their prior pursuit. Where is your self-value? Through your capability and wisdom, you create social value and gain social acceptance and what you are doing is your value. The same is true to an enterprise. If an enterprise serves the country, contributes to the nation, and creates social value, it will certainly get social acceptance. Our ideal is of the highest level — we mate ours words to our deeds and have achieved a lot.

“Self-discipline and social commitment” means self-achieving after helping others achieve.

Gaining is pronounced as De in Chinese, just like the pronunciation of self-discipline. One is called “Guo de”, meaning mating one’s words to his deeds. This is a requirement for both persons and enterprises. The other is called “Yu de”, meaning letting others get what they desire. One should learn to help others achieve themselves. Both “De” are great discipline. All things need to be treated by goodness — self-achieving comes after helping others achieve.

The moral high ground is serving the country and being honest.

An enterprise can achieve a lot only by uniting the staff and wining their hearts. To win their hearts, enterprise management needs to focus on human nature and has a reasonable reasoning. Reasoning can be divided into four levels. The first level is heavenly principle — conscientiousness; the second is reasoning, deducting the development tendency; the third is proposition through consensus; lastly, when proposition is widely recognized and accepted and leads to success, proposition will become truth. Thus, truth is resulted from heavenly principle, reasoning and proposition. The highest level of CEFC’s reasoning is serving the country and being honest. Only by occupying the moral high ground can CEFC unite everyone’s heart.

The reasoning of human nature is based on the knowledge of the nature and value of self and others. Everyone is born to be selfish. But we need to unite private interests together and achieve public interests. That is what I have said — self-achieving comes after helping others achieve. Once you help others achieve their private interests, public interests are also achieved. To be a national enterprise and serve for the national interests is exactly CEFC’s positioning.

Goodness is an enterprise’s most important credit.

For an enterprise, honesty is the most important component of goodness. Harmony and peacefulness are prized and an enterprise should not treat others by tricks. CEFC mostly influences others by goodness and benevolence. Culture is an important influencing power. When CEFC invests in any country, it insists on the culture of goodness, uniting many talents and doing a lot for public interests. Thus, the people in other countries tend to identify themselves with CEFC. In business, CEFC establishes the standard of honesty by goodness. Once the standard of honesty is established, people tend to trust you and you will have an influence on them.

The key is to make your honesty sensed by others. If others cannot sense your honesty, honesty loses its power. Many people regard honesty worthless but are hooked by their own lies at last. The value of honesty is measureless. Towing others’ trust, you will keep on the path. The motivation of self-improvement is honesty. Why do people trust someone but distrust you? It depends on the accumulation of honesty.

CEFC is an enterprise emphasizing personal feelings and brotherhood.

In the management process, quite a few people pay more attention to ideology, whereas personal feelings are at a discount. In fact, personal feelings are essential in human relations no matter what kind of business is concerned. Besides, we adhere to the principle of brotherhood with a grateful heart. Would an enterprise ever have vitality if it thinks little of personal feelings? We deal with all kind of things by means of goodness, and all systems are designed on the basis of personal feelings. Therefore, we are thought to be cowardly, but it’s not the truth. CEFC does set a high value on personal feelings, however, the interests of CEFC is the top priority, and serving the whole interest of CEFC should be the goal of all staff, including me. As our culture, CEFC would never be ungrateful, and we would be always grateful to those who have made contributions to CEFC. Nobody’s fate can be dominated by us. The only thing we can say is that we can fulfill other people’s dreams. Under all conditions, what matters is clear conscience, and we seek only to feel no qualms, which is the truth actually.

Conflicts should be resolved by means of goodness in the development process of the enterprise.

Numerous conflicts may not emerge without the development of the enterprise. What is the fundamental way to resolve the conflicts? The answer lies in the culture as well as our true nature. After all, by good means or evil means? Everyone has his means so long as he is not a fool. Evil means come up to a large number, however, collective sense of honor could only be established by good means, and by then everyone would be fully involved and become each other’s soul mate.

The best culture of CEFC China is that the enterprise has never given anyone a hard time, which is not to say that the enterprise is incapable of doing that. “As we are running a business, the culture of goodness is advocated. Harmony is the most precious for an enterprise and goodness is in demand as well. However, if you become a stone which is an obstacle to the enterprise development, I would surely move you away. Moreover, we would find additional values of the stone, which may look pretty nice if it is built into a rockery.”

Credit is the fundamental guarantee for the endurance of the enterprise.

Credit is the most important and valuable thing for an enterprise. What is culture and what is cultural spirit? Credit is peerless therein. Many people deem credit as worthless, nevertheless, it turns out that they are just burying their heads in the sand. Credit can be expanded beyond the horizon, which constitutes the utmost value. It’s the greatest power to win the trust of others and of the world. Credit is the fundamental guarantee for the endurance of CEFC. “Credit is the core of the Chinese soul”, which is abbreviated to CEFC. We are committed to be on behalf of the credit of the Chinese nation, with the ultimate goal of realizing the credit system at the levels of the country and the Chinese nation through an organic integration of commercial credit and financial credit.

If the employees do not feel satisfied, how could we expect them to unite against the odds from the outside?

It is a mistake to think that the employees are not important. Instead, importance should be attached to the staff. Those who gain the common aspiration of the people will rule the world. If an employee does not feel satisfied, then his family would be affected, and a group of people would in turn be affected. Every change is from within, and how could we expect to unite against the odds from the outside if the inner issues are not handled properly?

Never forget benevolence, morality, gratefulness and trustworthiness.

As Buddhism says, all dharmas are marked with emptiness, and all things lack inherent identity. I am not the one I used to be, actually, the present one is my true self. Therefore, we should be in control of the present ones. What is the true self? We should stick to the four principles of “Don’t forget”: the first one is to have ambitions, and don’t forget benevolence on the way to your ambitions; as to the second one, don’t forget morality when stratagem is applied, as The Art of War says, the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; as to the third one, the development of the enterprise needs everyone’s help. A just cause enjoys abundant support, and don’t forget gratefulness when accompanied with reputations and achievements; as to the fourth one, when you become rich and famous, don’t forget trustworthiness so long as your voice is heard.

As long as we are on the right track, we are not afraid to be confronted with numerous difficulties.

An enterprise should start with healthy atmosphere and excellent culture. We are on the right track, and such kind of healthy atmosphere is essential for the culture and all the employees. However, healthy atmosphere must be guaranteed by institutions. This is the combination of Yin (the invisible) and Yang (the visible), as culture and healthy atmosphere are Yin (invisible) and virtual, the institutions are Yang (visible) and real. However, it’s not going to work if there is only institutions without healthy atmosphere and the culture which equals to having no soul, in fact, the two are bound to be combined.

It seems that there are millions of ways to go in the world, but actually there are only two — the right track and the wrong track. Along the wrong track, you may be successful in the short term, but failure is doomed. As long as you are on the right track, you are not afraid to be confronted with numerous difficulties.

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