Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi: Beijing's It-couple

Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi

Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi are the It-couple of Beijing: property tycoons who made a fortune at dizzying speed – and whose futuristic designs are reshaping their city

It’s Sunday night in Beijing, and a private lift sweeps me up to the 32nd-floor penthouse of Jianwai Soho tower: the family apartment of Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi, China’s most visible and flamboyant property tycoons. When the door opens, I am led into a huge living room, with floor to ceiling windows and amazing Chinese art on white walls. I have met them before, in London, and they greet me warmly, Zhang, attractive and charismatic, dressed informally in black trousers and leather gilet, and Pan, who looks like a clever faun, with dark eyes that miss nothing behind black-rimmed spectacles.

{josquote}She became a Baha’i two years ago; Pan is a Taoist who is “still exploring”, Zhang says.{/josquote}

They have invited me and a couple of friends for an informal dinner, and we sit down to delicious Chinese fare, while the conversation is peppered with financial jargon. No wonder. Jianwai is just one of several large-scale developments they have built in Beijing’s central business district (CBD), making them the largest developers of residential and commercial buildings in the city. Married since 1994, they started their company, SOHO China, in 1995, and took it public last year, raising US $1.9 billion (£950 million) on the Hong Kong stock exchange – a high point in a dizzying career which has seen them build a fortune in 12 years through fusing brilliant land deals, marketing genius and innovative architecture in a city where until recently everything was grey.

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