Page last updated at 07:00 GMT, Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The man who wants to turn China green

By Juliana Liu
BBC correspondent, China's Hunan province

Businessman Zhang Yue
Mr Zhang says China's economic growth has been 'too crude'

On the outskirts of Changsha, capital of China's Hunan province, stand a 130-foot tall gold Egyptian pyramid and a full-size replica of the Versailles palace.

They are the icons of Broad Town, a huge factory campus owned by middle-aged businessman Zhang Yue.

The pyramid and the palace, rather incongruous in China's heartland, are reminders that Mr Zhang is a bit different from the average Chinese industrialist.

He is chief executive of privately held Broad Air Conditioning, and has made his fortune on green technology - and a code of ethics.

At a time when Chinese bosses are blamed for their shoddy business practices, Mr Zhang is pledging to protect the environment, respect intellectual property, end price gouging and even to pay taxes.

He has been running his company, selling to more than 40 countries, for two decades.

'Paying the price'

These days, he has bigger problems on his mind, chiefly the sorry state of China's environment.

There has been so much damage done to the environment, and a lot of that damage is permanent
Zhang Yue

"I think the main problem with the Chinese economy is that growth has been so crude," he says over lunch at his Mediterranean Club on campus.

"Our resources, our environment are paying the price for it. Our benefit in terms of higher living standards are only a small part of the big picture.

"There has been so much damage done to the environment, and a lot of that damage is permanent."

Mr Zhang is a self-made businessman, formerly an art teacher. He is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and behaves like an emperor at Broad Town.

The 49 year-old downs red wine at lunch, over the protests of his wife.

Everyday he sports the same dark jacket and trousers outfit that all his employees wear.

'Influence people'

The buildings at Broad Town may look like slightly tasteless bling, but to Mr Zhang, they symbolise the lofty aspirations he holds for his company and employees.

Cooling towers of Chinese power station
Mr Zhang wants China to be more concerned about the environment

"I want to influence people with what I say," Mr Zhang says between swigs of wine.

"Tell people to be more creative, innovative and careful when they build or make something, especially when it comes to understanding the environmental consequences."

Broad Town, with its expansive gardens and orderly factories, is a physical manifestation of his business and life philosophy.

Around the French palace stand about three dozen bronze statues of key figures from history: Socrates, Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Confucius, and even Martin Luther King Jr, his hands raised as if to conduct an orchestra.

Mr Zhang says they are there to offer stony-faced moral leadership.

Big boys' toys

Broad says it makes the only non-electric air conditioners in the world. They have already saved the planet 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the company.

Chinese power station
China's pollution has worsened alongside its fast economic growth

Instead of using electricity, these non-electric coolers use natural gas.

As well as lecturing Chinese bosses, Mr Zhang likes to show them how to live the good life. He has stretch limos and Ferraris, but he prefers big boys' toys.

Mr Zhang was the first man in China to own a private plane, and now has a fleet, though he says he tries not to fly them too much because of environmental concerns.

At the moment, he's trying to buy a fuel efficient plane and master his flying skills.




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