Imagine owning a Ferrari, only its 1992 and its the first Ferrari in China. Mr. Li Xiao Hua was the first Ferrari owner in China after Ferrari brought a show model to China to showcase China’s bid for the year 2000 Olympics, Li saw it and snapped it up, he also received the Beijing 00001 license plate for his brand new Ferrari 348TS.
Li’s amazing story has been documented by The Official Ferrari magazine and of course is available online. China has no shortages of Ferrari’s in 2012 with China one of the best markets for Italian sports cars in the world, but the first Ferrari will always be special.
Back in 1992, Li Xiaohua was the first man in China to buy a Ferrari. A potent symbol of success, Li quickly became associated with the vivid, magical, red of the Prancing Horse. So much so, that people soon dubbed him â€œMr Ferrariâ€. His global fame saw a succession of visiting dignitaries, including American Presidents Bush (father and son) and Clinton, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, all signing his 348 TS
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Growing up in the egalitarian scarcity of the Mao era, owning a car was beyond a dream for Li Xiaohua, now a successful tycoon and philanthropist, and Chinaâ€™s first Ferrari owner. â€˜All of China was very poor, and I could not even afford a bike. It cost 100 to 200 RMB [Chinese Yuan Renminbi], which was then an unimaginable, enormous figure,â€™ Li recalls. â€˜If we could just get enough to eat, we were doing well. A car was never even a goal, it was too far away.â€™ Reminiscing from one of his lavish mansions, a marble gilded palace in a villa compound near Beijingâ€™s airport, Li explains how his precocious younger self was still fascinated by the machines. â€˜I liked cars a lot in my childhood,â€™ he laughs. â€˜China was not open, and there were very few cars, and all of them were Soviet imports. I loved to look at them; there were cars like Volga, Zim, [short for the Zavod Imeni Molotova from the Lenin Car Factory], and the Zis from the Moscow Stalin Car Factory. As China developed, there were a few domestic brands like Red Flag and Shanghai, which I also really liked. Sometimes I followed new cars and would even be late for class.â€™ Born in Beijing in 1951, Li endured some of the greatest privations of Chinese Communism, including eight years of hard labour imposed on his generation of urban youths who were sent out to the countryside to learn from the peasants. However, he came of age during the late â€™70s, a crucial moment, just as China was beginning its excitingly transformative gaige kaifang, or reform and opening. Li was one of the first brave wave of getihu, or private entrepreneurs, who dared to go into business for themselves at a time when most Chinese feared that the economic opening up would, like prior liberalisations, prove temporary, and be followed by a crackdown on those who supported it. State-owned enterprises provided all of society with the security but also invasive control of a lifelong work unit, or danwei. Only a few initially left the housing allotments and stability of their work units to xiahai, or jump into the uncertain sea, of private endeavour.
Make sure you click through and read the rest of the story.