Wang Xing: the Poet Entrepreneur

After Meituan‘s going public, Meituan CEO Wang Xing’s networth has rocketed to $41.7 billion.

The billionnaire, however, seems more sober-minded than ever before. It is nine hours after the company has gone public on September 20, and he writes on the microblogging platform Fanfou he created 11 years ago: “A good chess player usually knows and accepts the fact that he himself is a chess piece in a bigger game.” Some say this is a telltale sign that Meituan is now further entangled in the power struggle between Tencent and Alibaba.

Before becoming the CEO of Meituan, Wang had several other titles to boast about. A non-typical engineering graduate from Tsinghua University, he was the founder of the once popular Chinese social network Xiaonei (now Renren) and China’s first twitter-like microblogging platform Fanfou, founded two years before Sina Weibo.

microblogging platform Fanfou

According to his one and only biography titled “Nine Losses and One Win”, the platform’s Chinese name “Fanfou” is taken from a verse “Is the old general still eating?”, in a famous poem by patriotic poet Xin Qiji from the Southern Song Dynasty. Fan means ‘food’ and fou means ‘whether or not’. The sentence originally implied that a general is still able to make sacrifices for his country even during his later years. Apparently, the engineering graduate has a great passion for history and literature.

In the past seven years, Fanfou has been serving as a treehole for the entrepreneur as he writes incessantly on the fading platform, sometimes posting several messages in a row during the night, expressing his poetic thoughts and experience of life and his overall career. On May 28, 2017, Wang posted a series of self-created verses in short successions.

“A road that is flooded with sweat, a tree that is watered with tears.”
“A road that is all peace and quiet, a tree with all the twists and turns.”
“A road that comes from Longyan (city that Wang Xing was born), a tree that is deeply rooted in Beijing.”

Wang Xing’s self-created verses on Fanfou

The verses are all written in the same format and some of them are full of lucid images and depictions. He ended his improvised poetry by posting a picture of him drinking with friends. Was he suddenly possessed by Li Bai, the famous drunken poet?

A Melancholy and Artistic Youth

Social media is the best place to see through a person’s character and understand his perception of the world. Wang’s self introduction on the platform is as follows:

“If my day goes by and I haven’t seen, thought, or done anything worthy of being posted on Fanfou, then the day was spent in vain.”

He must also be a ferocious reader as he posts many reading notes and excerpts including those from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and Norwegian Wood from Haruki Murakami, which are seen as the bible in the hearts of the melancholy and artistic youth. “By the time I read Catcher in the Rye, I was no longer in my adolescent years. I was almost at the age when Salinger wrote this novel.”

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

He also writes interesting comments like, “Kafka has a totally different temperament from the ferret-coat-loving Oscar Wilde. I mean, they are both elegant, but in a completely different way.”

As written in his biography, he possesses three major traits that are very commendable. First, is his everlasting curiosity about the world. He always kept an open mind towards new things, which is reminiscent of Steve Jobs who believed in the creed of “stay hungry and stay foolish”. Wang’s posts of literature and art expressed his wide range of interests apart from the more utilitarian topics.

Secondly, he is an independent thinker. As written in his biography: “He is the kind of soldier who needs to understand why he has to fight the war he’s fighting.” And thirdly, he has been rather focused on the field of Internet throughout his entire career.

Wang, now 39 years old, has already made two previous attempts at starting Internet companies. In 2007, he had to sell his first creation Xiaonei, a Facebook clone, due to failures in financing. The Twitter-like Fanfou was banned in 2009 for sensitive wordings and was revived in 2010 but was unable to catch up to Sina Weibo which emerged during its dormancy. Meituan, according to him, is his last battle.

A famous line in Catcher in the Rye reads: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

Wang has fallen twice on his path of entrepreneurship, but continues to live humbly for a noble cause.

The Lonely Poet Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs can feel lonely sometimes too, just like how the Mark Zuckerberg character was depicted in the Oscar-winning film The Social Network. In the film, Mark created the appearance-rating website Facemash because he was dumped by his girlfriend. In real life, however, Mark is portrayed in the media and on his own Facebook page as a mild-tempered and happily married man, nothing like the self-absorbed genius in the film.

The word “loneliness” appeared numerous times in Wang’s random and frequent tweets on Fanfou. Compared with the then popular blogging platform NetEase Blog, which encourages lengthy writings, Fanfou was a better vessel as it welcomes the sudden fleeting of inspirations and sparkles in one’s head.

Some of the classic posts are shown below.
“Can we share loneliness?”
“I can’t remember the details of the book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, however I can still recall the penetrating loneliness.”
“Internet changes people’s lives in one way or another, including loneliness.”
“For a lonely soul, work is the best cure.”
“Smart children, carrying fragile lanterns; lonely children, you are the grace of God.”

These mumbling words are the poetic live broadcasts of his daily ponderings. He must be persistent, still grabbing on to this lonely island of a social tool, when everyone else has already gone away to Sina Weibo or TikTok.

Among all his Fanfou posts, the most touching would be those about his father, hometown, or childhood. “I became fond of camellias in my childhood.” And also, “I still remember the sand piles on the slope behind my neighbor’s house 30 years ago. I used to lie on it side by side with the little boy next door, looking at the blue sky and white clouds above us and making up stories. How I miss my childhood where I had infinite amounts of time to waste.”

As French writer Francoise Sagan said, all wandering people dream of peace, childhood, and Azalea, just like all settled people fantasize Vodka, music band and partying. Perhaps the wandering life for Wang Xing had just begun.