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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wal-Mart Grows Bold in China

SHENZHEN, China -- Wal-Mart plans to hire 150,000 people in China over the next five years, five times the number it currently employs here, as it prepares for a major store expansion.

Joe Hatfield, chief executive of Wal-Mart Asia, who has worked at the world's biggest retailer for more than 30 years and was its first employee in China in 1994, said Sunday that the company planned to open 20 stores in the country this year and was racing to train more staff so that it could speed up growth.

"We're really going to ramp this up," Hatfield said in an interview while touring stores in Shenzhen, Wal-Mart's China headquarters.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer currently has 56 stores in China, putting it behind other global chains such as France's Carrefour, which had 78 at the end of 2005.

Wal-Mart did not even register enough sales to crack the top 30 on the Commerce Ministry's list of the biggest retailers in China, released last month.

That looks set to change.

"We're going to be growing in all directions," Hatfield said, adding that new stores were planned for both the major metropolises and the smaller cities.

Wal-Mart's China operations could be as big as its U.S. business in 20 years, Hatfield said. Wal-Mart's 3,700 U.S. stores generated 80 percent of its $312 billion in sales for the latest fiscal year.

Wal-Mart's stores in China can draw 1.2 million people per month. The retailer employs about 30,000 people in China.