By Greg Hugh
Chen Guangbiao, a Chinese recycling tycoon and among China’s top 400 richest people, made headlines recently by announcing his intentions to purchase the legendary New York Times.
When the attempt was rejected by the paper, Chen decided to see if the Wall Street Journal was available, stating that one American newspaper is just as good as another. His strongest qualification for owning an American newspaper? “I am very good at working with Jews,” the entrepreneur said, according to Hong Kong’s English daily South China Morning Post.
His interest in purchasing the Times stemmed from his desire to work on “rebuilding its credibility and influence” by reforming its award-winning coverage of China, Chen said. However, he also admitted that he might have ruined his chances with the Times by leaking the proposal to the media.
“I am entirely to blame for this,” Chen said, adding that his interest in the purchase was “serious.” An “interested shareholder” of the New York Times had apparently cancelled a scheduled meeting with Chen due to excessive media attention, the South China Morning Post further reported.
Chen has emerged as a fascinating, if showy, personality on both sides of the Pacific. He’s known for pulling stunts such as handing out cash to victims of China’s 2007 earthquake and selling “canned fresh air” to residents of Beijing on days when the city was immersed in smog.
Though spurned by the New York Times, the Chinese multimillionaire seems nonetheless to have wowed the Big Apple.
The recycling magnate—who admits publicity stunts are part of his persona—won widespread global coverage as he dashed around town while he was in NYC, pledging financial support to a pair of burn victims, shaking hands with newsstand attendants, and posing for photos with bodyguards who declined to let him handle their weapons. He kicked off a press conference by singing karaoke.
As if these past antics have not been enough to gain Chen certain notoriety, perhaps the strongest impression he projected during his recent visit to NYC was through his English-language business card, which he handed out.
In addition to his email address and mobile number, there are at least 10 self-bestowed titles included on his business card (see photo) such as “The Most Influential Person of China,” the “country's 'moral leader.’ the “most well-known and loved role model in China” and, also, “China’s most charismatic philanthropist.”
As for his business skills, he is the country's "foremost environmental preservation demolition expert" and a "low carbon emission environmental protection top advocate."
Already a controversial figure in the press, most regard Cheng's card as more shameless self-promotion that promulgates his status as a curious media novelty.