Billionaire founder Wang Jianlin’s new, massive theme park.

By Tom Huddleston, Jr. /
August 29, 2016
Credit: VCG via Getty Images

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Wang Jianlin is China’s richest man and he’s intent on beating Walt Disney at its own game.

The billionaire chairman of Dalian Wanda Group has signed a deal with the local government officials to build a $9.5 billion tourism and sports complex, complete with hotels and a theme park, in the eastern China city of Jinan, Dalian Wanda announced on Friday. The company said it plans to break ground on the complex, dubbed Jinan Wanda City, in 2017 with operations kicking off by 2021. Dalian Wanda said it expects the complex to attract more than 20 million tourists per year, create 20,000 jobs and generate significant tax revenue for the local government.

The deal for the Chinese company, which is the world’s largest commercial real estate developer and the owner of the world’s biggest movie theater chain operator, comes just two months after Disney opened the doors at its own massive, $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai. Earlier this summer, Jianlin boasted that Disney’s theme park expansion in China would ultimately fail and that Shanghai Disney Resort would not be able to compete with Dalian Wanda’s growing roster of theme parks in the country. The newly-announced Jinan Wanda City would be the 13th park out of at least 15 planned locations for Dalian Wanda throughout China.

“One tiger is no match for a pack of wolves,” Jianlin said in June, referring to his company’s collection of theme parks versus Disney’s solitary location in China. (At the time, Disney told Bloomberg that Jianlin’s comment “was not worthy of a response.) In February, Dalian Wanda also said it would invest more than $3 billion in a retail and theme park complex in France that is meant to compete with Disneyland Paris.

Jianlin and Dalian Wanda have made no secret of their ambition to build one of the world’s largest players in the tourism and entertainment industries, with ambitious goals to reach $100 billion in annual revenue (with 30% of that total coming from overseas) by 2020. Jianlin has already made significant moves in the cinema space, acquiring U.S. theater chain AMC in 2012, while a deal for a European theater chain this summer turned the company into the world’s largest cinema operator.

Meanwhile, Dalian Wanda has its sights firmly set on Hollywood, having spent $3.5 billion earlier this year to acquire Legendary Entertainment, the U.S. film studio behind hits such as Jurassic World, while Jianlin said this month that the company plans to wrap up two separate U.S. film-industry deals worth more than $1 billion each before the end of the year. After that, the billionaire said, Dalian Wanda is intent on acquiring one of Hollywood’s major film studios, with the company being frequently cited as a potential partner to Viacom, which is looking to sell a 49% stake in Paramount Pictures.