Meet the "Young Marshal" after enduring loneliness for 20 years – Zhu Yanfeng

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In April 2002, on the eve of the strategic partnership between China FAW and Japan’s Toyota Motor, Masashi Asakura, an expert in Toyota’s production investigation department, came to Changchun. His mission was to guide the production management of FAW cars, that is, to teach the world-famous Toyota production method.

Asakura arrived at the conference room after a week of touring the FAW production site, and the Chinese colleagues accompanying him on the tour routinely hoped for his valuable advice. Unexpectedly, the Japanese expert suddenly pulled his face down and said: "I know what each of you wants to say." He turned and wrote on the blackboard: Down with the Japanese devils. Asakura Masayoshi, who had no smile on his face, said: "I want you to beat me, but you have to beat me first. You can’t beat me. Sorry, just follow me honestly."

Hearing Masashi Asakura’s arrogant words, many of the second-level managers of FAW were deeply angry, but everyone quickly calmed down, just as one of the parties said to Jia Ke later, "You are unarmed, what can you use to defeat him?"

I’m afraid it was against this background that Zhu Yanfeng, then the general manager of FAW, told Jia Ke, a financial journalist at the time, in an interview in 2002 that was later amplified by CCTV and became famous and repeatedly criticized in the industry – "Cars, we have to endure loneliness for 20 years". He said that the car is an honest product, there is no excitement or romance, and the basic work is done well, so that we can compete with the world’s strong players.

People like to listen to stories that go all the way and auspicious words that are achieved overnight, but the reality is that when this is said, the market share of Chinese car brands is only around 25%. There is a gulf that cannot be ignored between Chinese cars and developed countries, and everything is just starting. Zhu Yanfeng’s "can endure loneliness for 20 years" is not passive and inactive. It obviously contains two meanings. The first meaning is not to be self-aggrandizing and impulsive; the second layer means to be realistic and work hard.

Now 20 years have passed. In the past 20 years, Chinese cars have risen all the way to become the world’s largest market. In the process, the machines that once changed the world are being changed, and the four modernizations of cars are gradually becoming a new track of climate, intelligence and electrification. Sparks are flying between traditional cars and new cars. In the once-in-a-century revolution, Chinese cars have ushered in a once-in-a-millennium opportunity.

In the first half of 2022, Chinese brands accounted for 47.2% of the total passenger car sales, which is about to reach the milestone of more than half. The new energy market has shown the hope of leading the world for Chinese cars at an unprecedented speed. In June, the market share of new energy vehicles reached 23.8%. In the first half of 2022, China’s new energy passenger vehicles accounted for 59% of the world’s new energy.

The lonely Chinese cars have finally begun to catch up, and the blooming moment is just around the corner. Zhu Yanfeng’s 20-year contract with Chinese cars has arrived as scheduled.

In early July 2022, as the principal of Xuanyuan School, Dr. Jia Ke led the students of Julang Phase 2 into the Landmap Technology of Dongfeng Motor Group company, and listened to the chairperson of Dongfeng Company, Zhu Yanfeng, talk about the Dongfeng change with Landmap as an example, and as an automobile veteran, his judgment and observation of trends.

Zhu Yanfeng is a legendary figure in the automotive industry. At the age of 38, he took the helm of FAW Group, the "eldest son of the Republic", becoming the youngest leader in FAW’s history. Under his leadership, FAW Group emerged from the darkness and became the first "million" car company in China. Due to his excellent business ability, Zhu Yanfeng is also known as "Young Marshal" in the industry.

He has experienced the era of Chinese cars catching up from traditional cars to the era of smart electric new cars catching up. Now in his 60s, with rich past experience, he leads Dongfeng Motor to fight in the new automotive world.

Judging from the results, Dongfeng Nissan has achieved overall reform, positioning high-end electric off-road warriors are about to be launched independently, and its own brand Aeolus has achieved explosive growth against the trend this year. At the same time, Lantu, a new car-making strength, has also begun to enter the smart electric vehicle market…

"Giant Wave, this name is very good. Cars are indeed a kind of giant wave, a giant wave of social development. Cars have been continuously

Changes are promoting social progress and integrating human civilization, including technological civilization and social civilization, so cars have a wide range of significance. "Standing at the turning point of the times, looking back at the past, Zhu Yanfeng sighed to the students of Xuanyuan Learning Julang Phase 2.

Young fame and long-term high position made Zhu Yanfeng put under the spotlight and microscope for almost half of his life, which caused him to be very low-key most of the time. However, in the class of Xuanyuan Zhixue, in the face of young people who were full of vitality, the serious "Young Marshal" rarely revealed his true feelings.

"I can not be the general manager, but I want to be a car for a lifetime, so I decided to be a car for a lifetime, and now I have been a car for a lifetime, and I feel very satisfied." Zhu Yanfeng said.

This is the seventh module of Xuanyuan Learning Giant Wave 2. The theme of this course is "Macro-industrial situation and enterprise change". In addition to Chairperson Zhu Yanfeng’s lecture as an industrial giant on the afternoon of July 6, on the morning of July 5, Fan Gang, vice president of the China Economic System Reform Research Association and president of the National High-end Think Tank China (Shenzhen) Comprehensive Development Research Institute, as an expert mentor, explained the practice of enterprise change and the macroeconomic situation to the students.

On the morning of July 6, Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop, a new heavy link designed to empower OEMs, was added to Xuanyuan Learning. The theme of this Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop was to explore the development strategy suggestions of Lantu under the new trend of smart cars. To this end, on the afternoon of July 5, JL Phase 2 students test-drove two cars of the Lantu brand – Lantu FREE E and the upcoming MPV Lantu Dreamer – at the intelligent network test field of Dongfeng Company in Wuhan.

In the last class, Principal Jia Ke picked up the roll list for the first time and called the names of the whole class again. When every "to" sounded, their memories of Xuanyuan School were like movie clips. This was the first time the students had met after four months of being trapped by the epidemic, and it was also the final course of all seven of their modules.

Economist Fan Gang’s Judgment and Suggestions

On the morning of July 5, 2022, Fan Gang, as the instructor of Xuanyuan School, gave a lecture for the second time to the students of the Julang class. His lecture topic was "The External Environment and Internal Dynamics of China’s Long-term Economic Development".

He started from the recent fluctuations and growth of China’s economy, the "great change" of the international environment and the "decoupling" of China and the United States, the "second half" of the Russia-Ukraine war and globalization, the current inflation and the world economic turmoil, the potential and driving force of China’s long-term economic development, and the low-carbon transition.

Faced with the recent fluctuations in China’s economy that everyone is most concerned about, Teacher Fan Gang believes that although the epidemic still dominates the cause of the recent fluctuations in China’s economy, the epidemic does not belong to the category of economic analysis. From an economic perspective, it is more due to concerns about international financial turmoil, the uncertainty caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the "contraction effect" of some policies.

Professor Fan Gang believes that macro policies can still play a certain role in the second half of 2022, mainly fiscal expenditure and infrastructure building, but monetary policy is difficult to play any role. He specifically mentioned that China’s urban agglomeration development strategy is undergoing adjustment in recent years, starting to increase land supply to big cities, reducing or stopping land supply to small cities, allowing collective land around cities to enter the market for housing construction, and increasing the supply of public rental housing. Small towns were basically in the stage of population outflow in the past. The state should create conditions to realize the return of population to small towns and villages, and plan for modern small towns and rural revitalization in advance.

He therefore proposed that China’s economic development has gone through three stages: the initial stage is to take advantage of the comparative advantage of cheap labor and engage in labor-intensive industries, so as to develop; the second stage is the advantage of latecomer, because if you lag behind, you can learn the knowledge and technology that other countries have developed at a lower cost and faster speed, and then quickly shorten the gap. The specific method is to study abroad, exchange science and technology, and introduce foreign capital; the third stage is the stage where latecomer advantages and independent innovation work together. From 2018, China has almost entered this stage.

Therefore, Fan Gang refers to the "Thucydides Trap" because "China has changed" – developing faster and faster, so fast that some Western countries regard China as their number one competitor, and they cut off our access to knowledge by cutting off supply, decoupling, and cutting off supply.

After leading the students through the cruelty of reality, Fan Gang also pointed out the direction for the students to get out of the predicament. He believes that globalization will not stop. "The United States is so de-globalized and so anti-globalized, why hasn’t globalization stopped?" He said. "To discuss this matter, you must first understand one question. Who originally promoted globalization? It was the big companies in developed countries that promoted the development of globalization."


Fan Gang believes that globalization will not stop. "The United States is so de-globalized and anti-globalized, why doesn’t globalization stop?" he said. "To discuss this matter, we must first understand one question. Who originally promoted globalization? It was the big companies in developed countries that promoted the development of globalization.


In the beginning, multinational companies promoted globalization, and the political elites supported it, and the grassroots class was not harmed. At that time, the industries that were transferred out were nothing more than labor-intensive. Wages in developed countries rose, and they moved to capital-intensive and knowledge-intensive industries, including the service industry. So no one opposed it. At that time, it was the developing countries who opposed globalization. The starting point of the developing countries at that time was that you used to exploit us in a colonial way. Now you don’t engage in colonies. You use multinational companies to call neocolonialism to continue to exploit us.

Today, the situation has changed significantly. "The more advanced we go, the more we lose manufacturing in developed countries," says Fan Gang. "Low-end manufacturing goes out, and high-end manufacturing also goes out. As a result, blue-collar workers in developed countries are severely unemployed, their living standards are seriously declining, and there is no hope. Therefore, the anti-globalization movement of the grassroots class in the United States has been triggered. The grassroots class has votes, so the political elite also follow these grassroots classes to oppose globalization. But multinational companies have not stopped thinking about the issue of global layout for a day."

Faced with the "Thucydides Trap", he believes that multinational companies are still engaged in globalization. The development of globalization will bring opportunities to backward countries. Backward countries and emerging market countries now support globalization, so globalization will not stop, but there will be some adjustments to globalization. Domestic enterprises must first continue to adhere to globalization, but at the same time, they also need to think about future development and adjust the layout of globalization with the way of thinking of global resource allocation. "Our enterprises can not only develop in the Asia-Pacific region, but also go to America and Europe to set up factories, develop and allocate resources."

Fan Gang said that there are several theories in economics that can prove that perfect competition is not a good industrial behavior. Perfect competition can keep prices very low. Although it is the best for consumers in terms of price and cost, one of its problems is that there is very little innovation. Perfect competition has little profit for enterprises, and profits are very thin. Its ability to invest in and research and development is very poor, so it will not invest in research and development as a continuous process. Then, the industry becomes less and less innovative, and there are fewer and fewer new products. This is a negative factor for consumers in the long run.

The reason why an industry can be in a state of perfect competition generally has a lot to do with the low threshold of the industry. He said: "Digital transformation involves the structure of the entire industrial Internet. The problem with our industrial structure is that there are too many small enterprises, all of which are small enterprises. Small enterprises have little profit and little investment, and it is too expensive for them to do things in the industrial Internet. In the digital economy, enterprises need someone who can provide better software and provide better and cheaper solutions to help manufacturing enterprises achieve transformation at a relatively low cost. If this problem is solved, our manufacturing industry can keep up with the new stage of international technological development and can continue to develop, which is also an important future potential growth point for China’s economy."

In addition to improving the digitalization level of the manufacturing industry, Fan Gang also mentioned that it is now an opportunity for all walks of life to reform and adjust the internal structure of the industry through mergers and acquisitions to enhance competitiveness. At the same time, he also did not forget to seize the development opportunities of new energy and new energy-related industries. This is actually a huge opportunity brought to us by the current transformation of the automotive industry from traditional automobiles to new energy intelligent networked new vehicles.

The first show of Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop


The so-called Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop is a think tank composed of Xuanyuan School mentors and students. It conducts targeted multi-angle consultations and discussions on some pain points, difficulties and itching points in the actual development of the OEM where the industry mentors are located.


Xuanyuan Zhixue has always emphasized the mutual learning and learning together. In the last module of Julang Phase 2, Xuanyuan Zhixue specially launched a link that reflects this teaching model – Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop.

The so-called Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop is a think tank composed of Xuanyuan School mentors and students. It conducts targeted multi-angle consultations and discussions on some pain points, difficulties and itching points in the actual development of the OEM where the industry mentors are located.

The Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop is to discuss the opinions and suggestions of the development of Lantu under the new situation of the new energy smart vehicle market. The members of the think tank are Xu Changming, deputy director of the State Information Center and senior economist, Zhang Xiaoliang, founder and CEO of SoCar Product Strategy Consulting, Wu Jun, the representative of Xuanyuan Learning Julang Phase 2 students and the general manager of Zhuomeng International, and Wang Fengbin, the executive principal of Xuanyuan Learning, conducted an in-depth analysis of the development of Lantu Automobile from the four dimensions of market, product, marketing and brand.

In order to provide a more complete picture of the current situation of Landmap and the development problems encountered, DONGFENG MOTOR CORPORATION Party Committee Standing Committee, Deputy General Manager You Zheng, and Deputy General Manager Liu Zhanshu of Landmap Automotive Sales and Service Co., Ltd. came to the class of Xuanyuan Zhixue, gave a detailed introduction to the current situation of Landmap, and confessed to Xuanyuan Zhixue its current bottleneck. The biggest problem with Landmap at present is that although it has the potential to explode, it has not yet become a hit.

Lantu Automobile Sales Company has just assumed responsibility for marketing Liu Zhanshu from the marketing interpretation, the product positioning of Lantu, high-end sense of building and strategic position and other issues to Xuanyuan Factory guests threw their own topics.

Xuanyuan School instructor Xu Changming took the lead in interpreting the three opportunities and three challenges of Lantu Automobile from the overall situation of the automobile market.

He believes that the opportunity of Lantu is that the total number of electric vehicles is and will continue to grow rapidly. In addition, among the 300,000-400,000 electric vehicles, independent and joint venture brands are evenly divided. Furthermore, among consumers who buy high-end electric vehicles, there are a group who prefer to have independent big brands endorsed. The challenges are similar to the difficulties encountered by most traditional car companies in transformation, including how to challenge the traditional thinking mode, what new ideas to reduce costs and how to create better quality.

Xuanyuan’s mentor, Zhang Xiaoliang, who focuses on product strategy research, gave Lantu Automobile’s product development advice on the topic of "Building a Product Strategy System for the Expansion Period of Intelligent Electric Drive".

He suggested that making products requires making truly effective innovation breakthroughs, rather than just doing emotional business. At the same time, it is also necessary to form a system of very broad recognition and common drive within the entire team, which should be managed and driven by goals, rather than by the process management tools of 20 or 30 years ago.

Xuanyuan Learning Julang Phase 2 student Wu Jun gave Lantu a very specific and easy-to-implement marketing strategy suggestion from the perspectives of brand, product, competitive product and sales.

Wang Fengbin, the executive principal of Xuanyuan School, stood in the perspective of brand innovation culture strategy, and provided more ideas for the branding of Landmap in terms of vision-driven, cultural empathy and cybertribe operations.

After the keynote speeches of the four experts, the students of Xuanyuan Learning Julang Phase 2 included: what opportunities and challenges will Lantu face in the future, how will it stand on the shoulders of Dongfeng, the "giant", what is the biggest difficulty that Lantu encounters in brand promotion, what are the competitive advantages of Lantu compared with other new car-making forces, and why Dongfeng wants to create a high-end new energy vehicle brand like Lantu. Four questions started with a fierce group discussion.

Through the students’ rich practical experience and corporate leadership background, their discussions also gave Lantu a broader perspective for improvement. Liu Zhanshu said that through the discussions at Xuanyuan Factory, many questions were raised, "some can be solved quickly, and some can be solved in the process of solving,… I think it is very good to have such a very frank face-to-face discussion."

This is the first activity of Xuanyuan Zhixue – Xuanyuan Innovation Workshop. Not to mention the expert mentors of Xuanyuan Zhixue, in fact, every student is an expert in a certain aspect of the automotive industry, and they are all high-powered people in the automotive industry. It is easier for them to come up with relatively more practical solutions. In the future, Xuanyuan Zhixue will continue to replicate this model, improve and improve quality, and continue to empower OEMs and the automotive industry ecosystem.

The link of Julang Private Exchange was shared by Huang Liang, founder and CEO of Rainbow Wireless (Beijing) Technology Co., Ltd., a student of Julang Phase 2, and Sun Yanan, founder of Suzhou Youlesai Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd.

Huang Liang is moving from mobile phones to the automotive industry. The development of mobile phones from the Internet to the mobile Internet and cars from traditional to smart electric vehicles seem to be several things in different fields, but he believes that the development, evolution and technological progress of these industries are very closely related. "How can we use existing technologies to optimize and change the past form and form a new business model, that is, the application scenarios or business opportunities of smart cars."

Sun Yan’an shared his thoughts on the four aspects of the automotive supply chain: demand, management, process and rules. The company he founded is a company that uses the unitized logistics system as the basis point to design and serve the automotive parts industry. It has basically realized the full scene coverage of the automotive industry, especially the parts.

In the future, they hope that through market rules or market development, they can truly establish a professional independent service third party. "Advocate the logistics packaging sharing platform of China’s automotive industry, and hope that everyone will unify the standards and work together to promote the common progress of the automotive logistics industry and improve the level. That is our goal," he said.

Zhu Yanfeng withstands loneliness after 20 years

On the evening of May 5, 2015, Zhu Yanfeng flew to Wuhan from Changchun. At the age of 54, he had been away from the automotive industry for nearly 8 years and suddenly returned to manage a large central enterprise with 170,000 employees, 3 listed companies and 15 major automobile companies. People are looking forward to how Zhu Yanfeng will play his cards.

This answer sheet has begun to emerge after 7 years: sweep away all kinds of branches and creeps, find the certainty of future development. At the crossroads of history, concentrate resources and strength to develop independent brands.

In July 2017, Dongfeng Yulong "withdraws people and does not withdraw capital"; on April 14, 2020, Dongfeng Renault delisted and restructured; on November 19, 2021, Dongfeng Yueda Kia withdrew… In the joint venture sector, Dongfeng has finally completed the evolution from "integration" to "withdrawal".

At the same time, Dongfeng’s independent brand took on a new look. Dongfeng Fengshen completed its self-rescue and counterattack, got out of the bottom, and started a new round of growth. Landmap Automobile has just perfected the full-link personnel structure and is preparing for a new sprint. M brand of Dongfeng’s high-end new energy off-road vehicle project will be born again.

In 2021, Dongfeng Group established a strategic steering committee to support important strategic plans, business plans, including budgets, etc. Dongfeng Motor also adjusted its organizational structure and innovatively adopted the BU system for technology centers, Dongfeng Finance, Dongfeng Import and Export Company, and Dongfeng Travel, which stimulated the vitality of the enterprise.

On the afternoon of July 6, 2022, Zhu Yanfeng, chairperson and party secretary of DONGFENG MOTOR CORPORATION, walked into the class of Xuanyuan Zhixue with the specific practice of "five modernizations to one car, one car to four networks", and gave a speech and question and answer for two and a half hours.

In 1999, when Mr. Zhu, 38, took over as FAW’s general manager, he became the youngest person in FAW’s history to take the helm and the youngest general manager of China’s large auto industry. In a speech shortly after taking office, Mr. Zhu proposed that all FAW employees in China drive their own cars. Like some of his remarks, there was ridicule and skepticism.

When Zhu Yanfeng drew a beautiful blueprint, Zhang Ming was still an ordinary employee with a salary of more than 600 yuan per month, while a Jetta cost more than 100,000 yuan; in 2004, Zhang Ming drove a Bora with about 200,000 yuan back home. Twenty years later, Zhang Ming has become the backbone of FAW Group and joined Xuanyuan Learning Julang Phase 2. He said that this is Zhu Yanfeng’s vision from the height of the enterprise leader, he saw the future, non-linear development.

For leaders, ability, charm, courage and eyesight are all indispensable. One step at a time is the basic operation. Only by taking three steps can we lead the company to go faster and farther. In the automotive industry, "I have worked for a lifetime". In the era of competition and alternation between old and new, Zhu Yanfeng has his own insights into the future of automobiles.

"I’ve been in cars for decades, and I’ve been talking about one thing, and I’ve been answering myself, what is a car?" he said.


In response to Zhou Yan’s question, Zhu Yanfeng said: "As an individual, I feel that the mind, pattern, and taste should always be pursued, and then you should also be responsible, and you must be able to bear grievances. Behind this, you have to bear a lot, a lot of grievances, and you have to endure loneliness.


For this question, Zhu Yanfeng gave an answer when he attended the 12th China Auto Blue Book Forum with the theme of "Winter Bud" in 2020, "Can you be a Rubik’s Cube, a Transformer, and use our new materials to make a car that allows users to spend a share of money and make a powerful and small car?"

He pointed out at the time that companies are like sailing in the ocean. If they do not actively "move", they will be submerged. To continuously swim in the ocean, they need to carry out "cross-border", that is, in terms of technology, energy, business models, and intelligent intelligence, and provide users with the richest car world through intelligence, networking, and sharing.

Two years later, in the Xuanyuan School class, Zhu Yanfeng gave a more concrete direction. On the basis of the "four modernizations of automobiles" proposed by Dr. Jia Ke, he emphasized "lightweight". He believed that the development of the energy revolution, the Internet revolution, and the integration of the intelligent revolution and the transformation of the automobile industry promoted the development of the automobile industry in the direction of "five modernizations".

"I think there will be many material revolutions in other fields, material changes and material industrialization applied to our cars in the future. Lightweight is basically Dongfeng’s own call, but we think we still need to shout. Now whether it is aluminum-magnesium alloy, aluminum alloy, or aluminum-steel alloy, it has actually become a material process."

At the same time, the attributes of the car transformed the integration of products and society into a systemic operation. In society, there were transportation, energy, information, and financial relationships. On this basis, Dongfeng proposed "one car through four networks", that is, cars are linked to transportation networks, energy networks, information networks, and financial networks.

In a word, "five modernizations into one car, one car through four networks" is the characteristic of today’s automobile development.

In the interactive session, in response to the students’ questions about the relationship between smart cars and mobile phones, he said: "Today’s autonomous driving, including vehicle to everything, is actually a product defined by the threat of pursuing consumer trends in the tide to some extent. In fact, if it is very rational, the car and ecology are connected, and this part of the mobile phone can be done. Because the car and the mobile phone are originally divided, and the mobile phone part is connected with the ecology. You are the electronic mobile end point. I am the tangible material end point, and it is good to combine in the middle. But now these two are not combined, but replaced each other. I think more cars tend to have stronger computing power in motion and control, and the ecological interface is more involved."

Zhu Yanfeng has his own opinion on the relationship between the OEM and the supply chain. He believes that the relationship between the two parties must always be symbiotic and communion, but the relationship between the black box, white box, and gray box must be a dialectical relationship. In this relationship, the gray box state will become the norm. The black box is very short-lived, and the white box will not last long. So the gray box state should be a better state for supply chain management.

During the interactive session, the students couldn’t hide their admiration and curiosity about Zhu Yanfeng’s "Young Marshal" experience. Zhou Qian, a student of Julang Phase 2 and then deputy general manager of SAIC-GM-Wuling Sales Company, asked Zhu Yanfeng, who was young and famous, "If I were a young employee of Dongfeng, would I have any experience to share on the development path?"

Looking at the younger generation who was the same age as when he took over FAW, Zhu Yanfeng’s answer was particularly heartfelt. He said: "Life is a choice, and you always choose, it depends on what you choose. The real freedom is not what you want to do, but what you don’t want to do." "I work in administration and government, but I didn’t actually give up the car. Later, people asked if you were really interested. I said I was really interested. The changes that cars bring to people are really rich."

Looking back on the past, Zhu Yanfeng said, "At the age of 38, I feel that the right time, the right place and the right person have made me. Personally, I have indeed worked hard and suffered, but it is not just an individual, but also the right time and the right place and the right person. The right time is China’s reform and opening up, and the right place is the beginning of the establishment of China’s automobile society. Renhe is my predecessors of FAW. They should give me full trust and support as an employee, and they are willing to let me take on development, and they are willing to take on such challenges and risks. But as an individual, I feel that the mind, the pattern, and the taste should always be pursued, and then you should also have responsibility, and you have to bear the grievances. Behind this, you have to bear a lot, a lot of grievances, and you have to bear loneliness."

This article is originally published by Automotive Business Review
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