Yu Minhong, or Michael Yu (俞敏洪; born 15 October 1962 in Jiangyin, Jiangsu) is the founder and president of New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. (新东方), and a member of the central committee of China Democratic League. As the owner of one of the largest private educational services, Yu is known as the “richest teacher in China”, and “Godfather of English Training”. On Hurun Report’s China Rich List 2013, he had an estimated wealth $1.1 billion and was ranked No. 245 on the list. On the same list of 2015, he had an estimated wealth of $1.09 billion and was ranked No. 487. Also he was ranked No.1759 on Hurun Global Rich List 2015, with an estimated wealth of $1.1 billion.
Approximately 70% of Chinese students studying in the United States and Canada have taken English classes from the firm. In addition, the online education section has attracted more than 2 million registered users since beginning in 2003. New Oriental was the first Chinese private education company to list shares on the New York Stock Exchange.
Yu Minhong was born in a rural family. Unlike for the time, Yu’s mother encouraged him to go to school. Yu twice failed the university qualification exam and lost a year from illness. Yu was eventually admitted to Beijing University.
Yu was placed in a class for sub-standard students, because he couldn’t speak standard Chinese. Yu was a poor student, both financially and academically. In his junior year, pneumonia forced him to take a year off. After graduation in 1985, many classmates went abroad for further education, Yu began to apply for US universities while teaching English in Beijing University. After three years, Yu was accepted by a university. His requests for overseas study visas were repeatedly denied.
As the largest provider of private educational services in China, New Oriental offers educational programs including English and other foreign languages, overseas and domestic test preparation courses, tutoring, primary and secondary school education and online education. New Oriental’s instruction combines humorous, interactive teaching techniques with traditional Chinese educational values. Yu Minhong once emphasized his idea of “rediscovery”, which included New Oriental’s self-positioning among the private sector of China’s education area, and Chinese international students’ discovering and rediscovering of themselves and their homeland. All of these have been based on the background of overseas tide and China’s unprecedented development in the past decades. Yu Minhong with his New Oriental has always been arguing that they not only provide students with academic training, but also give inspirations.
In 2013, a Chinese film named American Dreams in China was released and became a hot topic across China. The movie was directed by famous Hong Kong director Peter Chan and was allegedly based on the self-development and entrepreneurial experience of Yu Minhong (“Cheng Dongqing”), Xu Xiaoping (“Meng Xiaojun”), and Wang Qiang (“Wang Yang”), under the context of China from the 1980s till now. Yu Minhong admitted that basically, he was the prototype of Cheng Dongqing, but denied that the character based on him was common. He claimed that no investment was made to the film by New Oriental.