Self-made Chinese billionaire to set up US$1.5B tech university

2021.05.07

A self-made Chinese billionaire whose glass factory in the United States is featured in an Oscar-winning documentary plans to build a university focused on technology to nurture top-notch engineers.

Cao Dewang of Hong Kong-listed Fuyao Glass is spending 10 billion yuan (US$1.54 billion) to establish the Fuyao University of Science and Technology near his hometown in Fujian province, echoing repeated calls in the country to reduce reliance on Western technology.

The project is said to be only the nation’s second public university funded by private donations. In 1921, contributions from Chinese-born Singaporean businessperson Tan Kah Kee led to the building of an institution that later came to be the University of Xiamen.

Cao, now 75, did not receive schooling until he was nine years old, and had to drop out at 14 due to adverse personal circumstances. He subsequently excelled in the business world and became a philanthropist. In November, he revealed having made donations amounting to some 16 billion yuan over the previous 37 years.

In the early 2010s, Cao bought over a defunct General Motors plant in the U.S. and turned it into a 180,000 square meter glass manufacturing base. It then became the subject of “American Factory,” a documentary about Chinese-American cultural clashes that won an Oscars gong in 2020.

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