Monday, June 09, 2008

Making Matters Worse

Making Matters Worse: Intimidation from China’s Bloggers

All people in China, regardless of race, birthplace, economic class, or nationality, are deeply saddened by the tragedy in Sichuan. Our hearts go out to Wenchuan, to the families of children, and to the courageous leaders who have persisted in the face of disaster. (Please see my previous post to donate to the U.S. Red Cross and assist in the re-development of Wenchuan). But amidst this tragedy, a hegemonic force has raised its head, with pernicious consequences: the wrong-headed and misguided blogging community of China.

They have not only misplaced their efforts, directing energy at innocent people, they have damaged the reputation of China and the Internet by their actions.

I refer to the case of Wang Shi, the Chairman of China’s top real estate company, Vanke.

On 5.12, May 12, Vanke donated over 2 million RMB to the earthquake disaster victims. It was one of the quickest to respond, as it also did with the snow disaster that hit China before the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).

Responding to an anonymous blogger, who complained that 2 million yuan was a huge disappointment from Vanke, Wang Shi on his May 15 blog (in Chinese) wrote a response entitled “After All, Life is Primary (Response to Web-Friend No. 56)” (“毕竟,生命是第一位的(答网友56)”, here (in Chinese)).

Wang Shi: “China is a country where disasters occur frequently. Charity for disaster victims is the norm. Companies’ charity drives should be sustainable, and not become a burden. Vanke Group’s internal charity drive has a condition: for each collection, ordinary employees can only donate a maximum of 10 yuan. The reason is so that donations do not become burdens.”

According to numerous sources, including the China Securities Journal, the online community in China has vociferously and vituperatively attacked Wang Shi for these comments (here, in Chinese). The result, as Wang Shi feared, is that donations have become a burden that companies cannot avoid: one could argue a “Wenchuan tax” has thusly been applied to any company in China. This is not corporate responsibility but a hegemonic civil society that blindly seeks scapegoats for a true human tragedy.

Under relentless pressure, Wang Shi and Vanke relented, pledging 100 million yuan in reconstruction assistance over the next 3-5 years on May 20 (see Shenzhen Securities Exchange announcement here (in Chinese)). This decision was approved by the Vanke board of directors last Friday, June 6 here (in English). At the meeting, Wang Shi appeared pale and weak, apologizing to the masses he had somehow disappointed. The force and power of hegemonic civil society is truly frightening, and its channeling through the blogosphere is a blow to any cheerleader of democracy.


Wang Shi was born in 1951 in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province. He comes from a military family. He is a heroic entrepreneur, as Liu Chuanzhi, Wang Wenjing, and others are in Zhongguancun. He is famous for having climbed Mount Everest, among other feats. He is a powerful advocate for private industry and reform in China.

Vanke (Shenzhen 000002, 200002, website) is the largest market capitalization real estate company listed in China. Its most recent results, reported in the 20081Q quarterly report, yielded 718.1 million yuan (103.7 million USD) in profit on 6.06 billion yuan of revenue (875.3 million USD). Vanke has ongoing sales in Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Chengdu, with new projects starting in 20081Q in Wuhan, Chengdu, Tianjin (2), and Dongguan. The majority of construction and sales occurs in the Pearl River Delta, Yangzi River Delta, and the Bohai Rim. Vanke has assets at the end of 20081Q totaling 107.8 billion yuan (15.57 billion USD).

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