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How a Dying Factory Became a Symbol of China’s Tech Might

  • Beijing-based display maker topped LCD market in last year
  • BOE builds OLED display capacity for foldable smartphones
BOE's headquarters in Beijing.
BOE's headquarters in Beijing.Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg
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A quarter-century ago, Beijing Electron teetered on the brink of collapse, a government behemoth brought to its knees by superior foreign technology. Decades later, fueled by billions in state funds, a re-christened BOE Technology Group Co. does business with Apple Inc. and has its sights on becoming the biggest supplier of next-generation screens.

It’s a turnaround authored by Wang Dongsheng, a low-profile accountant who took over an ailing vacuum-tube factory -- then begged his underlings for bailout money, at one point dabbling in producing mouthwash to make ends meet. But he ultimately secured capital from Beijing to build the biggest producer of flat displays, and devised BOE’s ascension to the pinnacle of screen-making: mastering bendable displays set to underpin a generation of malleable smartphones from the Samsung Fold to -- maybe -- a future iPhone.