Since going into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Zhu Jiaming--once a key economic adviser to reformist leader Zhao Ziyang--has spent much of his time struggling to stay relevant to a political and economic debate a world away. A laosanjie who went to graduate school at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Zhu landed in 1989 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management. There, he was a leader in the overseas democracy movement for several years.
Now, he's putting his political activities aside. Splitting his time between Hong Kong and the U.S., Zhu, 44, has gone into business full time. He and several partners, including laosanjie comrades from the Cultural Revolution era, have formed joint ventures to invest in real estate, TV, and manufacturing businesses in Australia, Southeast Asia--and China. Because of his history as a dissident, Zhu says he can't reveal his Chinese partners, and they in turn keep his role quiet.
Other exiles might look askance at Zhu's eagerness to make money with the Chinese government. Zhu, of course, sees things differently. "I've never thought there's a conflict between my hope that China can become a democratic society and that China can become a free economy," he says. "I want to make my contribution to China's economic change. That's my function."
Zhu dismisses China's leaders as "wasted" by communist ideology. In exile, he waits for them to pass from the scene. Then he sees a chance to return to a more liberal China. "I'm very patient," he says. For now, though, Zhu is infiltrating China from the periphery.