Zhang Xin: China's real estate mogul

How did Zhang Xin go from working in a sweatshop to being a billionaire real estate developer?

The following script is from "China's Real Estate Mogul" which aired on March 3, 2013, and was rebroadcast on Aug. 11, 2013. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Shachar Bar-On, producer.

No one symbolizes China's rapid 30-year rise -- from the backwaters of communism to the second largest economy in the world -- better than real estate developer Zhang Xin.

What's interesting about her is that while we think of China as being uncreative, repressive and as far as you can get from the American dream, she breaks every one of those stereotypes.

As we first reported in March, she's a mogul who got her start not in China, but on Wall Street. But she missed the Great Wall, so she went back home, and made it big!

The mogul, Zhang Xin, is the fifth richest self-made billionaire woman in the world.

[Zhang Xin: This is us. The one outside is us.]

She's pointing out her buildings. With her partner husband, she has built more of Beijing than almost any emperor in China's history.

Lesley Stahl: How many buildings have you and your husband built?

Zhang Xin: Oh, a lot!

Lesley Stahl: You can't even count them, right?

Zhang Xin: Yeah.

Wherever you look you see the company logo, SOHO China, on one cutting-edge skyscraper after the next. As a developer, Xin pays special attention to design, which is why she's been called the Steve Jobs of the architecture world. Her buildings are fluid and futuristic - and daring -- and would be at home in New York or London: an expression of China's emergence into the modern world.

Lesley Stahl: I'm wondering when you see these buildings if it ever strikes you: you are designing Beijing. It's a huge responsibility.

Zhang Xin: I feel that. I really feel that.

Lesley Stahl: Do you, you feel it on your shoulders?

Zhang Xin: I feel that. I feel these buildings are forming the face of our city.

Lesley Stahl: And you build huge buildings and huge projects.

Zhang Xin: That's China, you know? China-- if you think about what is the character of China, it's enormous scale. It's bigness. Everything.

She took us to the site of her newest project--

[Lesley Stahl: Do you love to come out-

Zhang Xin: I love coming out here.]

--that's so huge, it's swarming with thousands of workers. These kinds of projects are one reason for China's explosive economic growth. Recently though, there've been fears of overbuilding and a real estate bubble. Xin told us that's why she keeps her focus narrow: only office buildings and only in Beijing and Shanghai.

Zhang Xin: My own view is that residential property development in China has really come into an end.

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