Dai’s parents were farmers, and his early years were spent looking after their pigs and cows in Jiangsu province, the fourth of six children.
But Dai’s family were ambitious for him and maintained his schooling. He won a place at Renmin University where he studied finance. The extended family paid his way, although it was hardly a princely sum. His living expenses were just $2.50 a month.
After graduation, most of Dai’s classmates chose a life of government service. But, he tells us, he had to repay his family loans, and this was the dawn of the “opening-up period” as the Chinese call the moment when they began the transition from communism to capitalism.
So Dai went into banking where he learnt the elements of finance that were to serve him well in expanding his property empire. It was arriving in Shanghai to start his first job that led him to enter the property business.
The 47-year-old property developer now has a personal net worth $1.2 billion and says it is time for China to tread a global stage.