IELTS Alumni of the Year 2012: David Wang


A hunger for change and an ability to make strong business decisions amidst economic turmoil have been the keys to success for entrepreneur David Wang who has taken out this year’s IELTS Australia China Alumni of the year Award, writes Sophie Loras.

Mr David Wang is the Founder and Chairman of SPG Land (Holdings) Limited and the winner of this year’s IELTS Australia China Alumni of the Year Award.
Mr Wang established his property development and investment business, SPG Land Holdings after graduating from the University of Technology, Sydney with a Bachelor of Business.
In the true entrepreneurial spirit, Mr Wang’s development empire has grown from modest beginnings, and through his persistent ability to finding advantages during times of hardship.
Mr Wang had arrived in Australia from Guangzhou in 1987 with a HK$20,000 loan from a relative in Hong Kong. He was 22 years old, with a Bachelor degree in Building materials from South China University of Technology. The loan was enough to pay for six months English tuition in Australia and an economy class ticket to Sydney.
Mr Wang found subsidized accommodation at a college at Sydney University and soon found himself working three jobs at $10 an hour to support his living expenses. This included work as a cleaner at Sydney University before school, work at a restaurant in the evenings, and a weekend job selling Chinese paintings. If he had four hours sleep each night, he was happy.

*Pictured right: David Wang’s pride and joy, Shanghai’s spectacular Peninsula Hotel on the Bund.
Mr Wang had chosen UTS for his business degree because of its close proximity to the city. His first impression of life on an Australian university campus was one of great freedom.
“In China, education is very rigid. In Australia, people were sitting on the floor and getting really close to the teachers,” says Mr Wang.
Talking about the impact of his study and the years in Australia had on him, Mr Wang says: “In Australia you are taught to approach the problem and find a solution – not just given a formula to remember. And so you become more creative to find new ways for a solution and all this had an impact on me.”
His hard start to study life in Australia, is he admits, a vast change from the realities of Chinese students going abroad to study today.
“It was very different then,” says Mr Wang.
“Today students can visit the country and the university first and then think about it. In my time, it was not the case and there was a lot more risk taking. I went to Australia because the desire came from my heart and I had a real hunger for change.”
While completing his degree was a highlight, by 1991, Australia’s unemployment rate had hit 10 percent.
It was a stark reality for Mr Wang to realize it was going to be very difficult to find a job in Australia.
An entrepreneur at heart, he joined a local accounting practice in Sydney, branching out to service the Chinese community, and within a short time had more than 500 clients.
By 1992, he had decided to return to Hong Kong to try his luck in Asia.
“At that time, not many Chinese were returning to China. My background with knowledge of both China and
Australia became an advantage.”
China in the early ‘90s had begun opening up to investment. Shanghai was the first to be granted investment into local housing and that was where Mr Wang finally found his calling.
It was 1998, and he had finally decided to go out on his own – developing a project in Pudong to bring the city’s middle-class an affordable option for living in spacious homes with a garden and a car. The Asian financial crisis hit but on he ploughed. The project, using the expertise of an Australian architect and drawing on western life-style influences was a success and formed the starting point for SPG Land.
“I used my experience from Australia to develop a suburban community and trying to do villas for middle-class people that would be affordable,” says Mr Wang.
“We integrated a high school, kindergarten, shopping mall, hotels and other amenities.”
“The influence has come from Australia – we don’t build luxury houses, but good economic value – using more public open spaces, small courtyards and we are very careful to control the costs,” says Mr Wang of SPG’s development concepts.

*Pictured above: David Wang’s first project in Pudong – the Cambridge Forest Newtown – bringing affordable homes and gardens to Shanghai’s middle-class.
“Ten year’s ago if you bought an apartment in Shanghai downtown you could have also bought for the same price, a villa, double in size with a courtyard and a car and so of course our model has been very successful for people moving from downtown to the suburbs.”
He prides himself on the company’s concept of professionalism.
“I try to sell a lifestyle – not the product – which is very different from other developers in China.”
Today, David Wang’s China-wide property development and investment corporation based in Shanghai is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has grown to hold a proud record in the successful development of large scale master-planned residential communities and mixed use urban projects including schools, offices and retail centres.

The company’s hotel properties include the acclaimed Peninsula on the Bund in Shanghai (named Best Worldwide Business Hotel in 2010 by Fortune Magazine) and a personal favourite of all of David Wang’s many developments.

The business today employs around 1400 staff, with a substantial national property portfolio.
While humble at heart, David Wang’s philanthropic work is impressionable.
In Shanghai he established the SIPO Polytechnic to give students of poorer families training in nursing, trades and management. He is a counsellor of the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation and a member of international organisation, The Nature Conservancy – China Branch. He is also active in international commerce as a standing member of the Shanghai Overseas Exchange Association. In 2010, Mr Wang pledged a gift of A$5 million to the Nan Tien Temple in Australia to establish a private university for education in Asian business and cultural practice – The Nan Tien Institute.
“I really benefitted from seeing the importance of education, so I’ve always felt if I had the chance to help other people, I would.” 


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