On 16 to 17 June 2011, The Performance Theatre met in Beijing – its first time in China; the world’s most talked-about country.

True to the theatre’s tradition, we met in some of Beijing’s most interesting venues – the Great Hall of the People, the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse and Taimiao, the former Imperial Ancestral Palace.

China’s five-year plan

The programme covered wide ground. Taking China’s recently approved 12th five-year plan as our starting point, we explored China’s role in building a new growth paradigm, equipped to steer us through the challenges of the 21st century – from climate change to population growth.

A new kind of growth calls for a new set of values. Clearly these values need to support a more sensible approach to the use of global resources. But, to mobilise the global effort the job calls for, these values need also to be collaborative in essence, drawing on our common interests and harnessing our relative cultural strengths – whether that be China’s precision or the West’s capacity for innovation and exploration.

Who was there?

From the Chinese government, Wang Zhigang, Vice Minister for Science & Technology, joined us to welcome the theatre to China. Dr Zhang Guobao, vice chairman of the National Development & Reform Commission, presented the 12th five-year plan.

Chinese business also had a strong presence. This group featured Zhang Ruimin of Haier Group, Dr Shi Zhenrong of Suntech Power, and Yuan Guang-yu of China National Offshore Oil Corporation. And speakers and participants from the rest of the world included Paul Polman of Unilever, Ajay Banga of MasterCard, Jeremy Bentham of Shell, Marco Alvera of Eni, Matt Wang of IBM and Merit Janow of the NASDAQ stock exchange. The contribution of Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and CEO of Innovation Works, was a big highlight for many.

The Inspired Leadership Award

The 2011 winner of the Inspired Leadership Award was Zhang Ruimin, CEO of Haier Group. He accepted the award at the MasterCard gala dinner at Taimiao, the Imperial Ancestral Temple in Beijing.

A giant of Chinese industry, Mr Ruimin has shown how good business can also be good for society and for the environment. When he was appointed director of the Qingdao Refrigerator Factory in 1984, it was a small business that manufactured poor-quality products. Operations were badly managed, wasting resources. Products were energy inefficient. And workers were disengaged and poorly paid, not caring about the business or its products.

Mr Zhang revolutionised the company through a series of managerial changes that combine Chinese and Western practices, creating a unique system of management that has influenced companies in China and around the world. This small, failing business, now known as Haier, is today a major global appliances brand, with revenue totalling $20.7 billion in 2010. Under Mr Zhang’s leadership, Haier products are higher in quality, more energy efficient and last longer. What’s more, Haier employees are able to develop their abilities to higher levels, are better paid and are more engaged.

By combining outstanding business success with benefit to society and the environment, and doing so in a way that continues to inspire leaders around the world, Mr Zhang has earned the 2011 Inspired Leadership Award.