Campus entrepreneur: man becomes inspiration in China after revealing he made US$144,000 during 4-year degree study selling snacks, farm products, used books

Campus entrepreneur: man becomes inspiration in China after revealing he made US$144,000 during 4-year degree study selling snacks, farm products, used books
  • A student in China made large sums of money selling snacks, agricultural products and second-hand books as well as from private tutoring
  • The news outraged some people online who argue students should be studying and not setting up businesses to earn profit

A PhD student in southwestern China has been criticised online after revealing he made more than 1 million yuan (US$144,000) selling snacks, used books and other items during his four-year undergraduate degree study, causing public debate about whether students should run businesses.

Earlier this month, the man, surnamed Wang, posted on social media platform Xiaohongshu that he had earned the money while studying at Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan province. He shared a property ownership document and other evidence of his wealth online, news portal Red Star News reported.

He said his income was mainly from selling snacks, agricultural products and second-hand books to students on his campus. He also provided private tutoring to students. By his third year at university, Wang had started his first company.

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After graduating from Sichuan University, he enrolled in another university in Chengdu to pursue his master’s and PhD degrees. The report said he is now the owner of several companies he set up.

After being subject to criticism regarding his profits, Wang clarified on March 6 that he had made the money with several business partners.

He also said that setting up a business is risky, adding that he cancelled the registration of some companies he had started as they did not perform well.

“I do not suggest everyone start up their own business. However, I think everyone, especially university students, should have a creative mindset,” said Wang, who is majoring in business management.

“I have endured many failures and frustrations from running my own companies in past years. I was born in a rural area and am willing to take risks. But this is not for everyone, depending on your personality and ability to bear the risk,” added Wang.

Besides money, he said the rewards from running his companies were cultivating entrepreneurship and a hard-working spirit.

“Take the second-hand book business, for instance. I had to pick up waste books from smelly dustbins before sorting them out. This is a time-consuming and laborious process,” Wang said. “So while my university counterparts played games or drank cola in dormitories, I rode a pedicab under the scorching sun to collect books like a farmer.”

He said what motivated him to go into business while studying was his personal interest in entrepreneurship.

“Life is short. If I do not do what I am interested in, I will regret,” said Wang.

The story has attracted tens of thousands of comments on Douyin alone.

“What a business genius! He studies well and does business well in the meantime. His parents are too lucky!” one person said.

But another person speculated: “He must have had a good relationship with the school’s leaders. In most universities, students are banned from selling things on campus”.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, wrote in the Beijing News to warn that most university students should not follow Wang’s path.

“Each student should make their own plan for university life. If a person follows in Wang’s footsteps blindly, they may fail in both their studies and their business,” Xiong said.

“Don’t envy other people making big money. You should explore what you want and what you should do in university life to achieve your goals,” he added.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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