Thursday, November 5, 2015

Censorship of Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin's Harvard Lecture

On October 30, 2015, China's Wanda Group published a notice on its website entitled "Wang Jianlin gives an open lecture at Harvard Business School." An excerpt:
Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin was invited by Harvard University as the first Chinese entrepreneur ever, to give an open lecture to students on “Wanda’s Globalization Strategy”. Over 900 students packed Harvard Business School’s Burden Hall to full capacity, while another 800 students had to resort to waiting outside. A student at the event commented on the amazing attendance and was surprised that a Chinese entrepreneur’s were attracting such an avid interest.
. . . .
After the lecture, Mr. Wang engaged in an open Q&A session with students, calmly handling questions on issues ranging from Wanda's political ties, strategic objectives behind its investment overseas, his outlook on China's slowing economic growth, the US presidential elections and Sino-US relations, as well as China's One Child Policy and resistance to Wanda's real estate project in Spain.
On October 30, 2015, the state sponsored Caixin Magazine published an article on its website entitled "Wang Jianlin Responds to Wanda Shareholder Controversy" (王健林回应万达股权争议). An  excerpt:
While giving a speech in the "Harvard Open Classroom" on October 29, 2015 local time, Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin gave a formal response to a previous report in the New York Times regarding issues with Wanda shareholders. Wang Jianlin said that Qi Qiaoqiao and a company whose shares were controled by members of Deng Xiaoping's family had invested in Wanda business and real estate, and had transfered everything prior to the latter's stock market listing.

The article, which originally appeared at this URL - - was deleted within hours. These screenshots show that shortly thereafter Baidu began censoring search results for "Wang Jianlin Responds to Wanda Shareholder Controversy" (王健林回应万达股权争议).

The Wanda website published an English language transcript of Wang's speech. According to the transcript, Wang began by telling the audience:
Harvard is a well-known university for its freedom of academics and thought. So there are no limits when it comes to the Q&A section, feel free to raise any question. 
The original version of that transcript published on October 31, 2015 included the following text (emphasis added):
Shih: So I’m going to ask another question which maybe a little bit controversial. You can decide whether you want to answer it. But I have a New York Times article from April 28, 2015, they suggest the reason behind Wanda’s rapid growth, as we herd earlier, you’re certainly growing very rapidly. But the New York Times suggests that the rapid growth relies on the company’s political affiliations. They even state that President Xi Jinping, and other leaders’ are relatives of President Xi Jinping, and other leaders are Wanda’s shareholders. Do you care to comment on that?

Wang:  Professor Shih, I can see you have an honest face, but I didn’t know you were so relentless. But you have asked, so I will answer you in front of your students. Firstly, Wanda has no political affiliation. In August 2009, our commercial properties subsidiary had initiated a round of private placement and appointed China Galaxy Securities and CICC, China’s largest at the time, to oversee its execution. we set a relatively high price at RMB13 per share. We successfully raised RMB4 billion, breaking the record for the most capital raised by a Chinese private company at the time. Chairman Xi’s brother-in law, Mr Deng Jia Gui’s investment company, Qin Chuan Dadi, participated in the private placement at the same subscribed price level as other investment companies, such as the investment company of China Construction Bank and China Fan Hai Development. Just two months before the listing, Mr Deng sold all the shares held by his investment company and fully exited at a low price point, and I’d like to state at this point that Mr Deng was never a shareholder of our listed company. After six years of investment, he sacrificed the opportunity to realize a huge return in investment. This incident demonstrates that President Xi is not only strict in managing our country but is even more scrupulous when it comes to family affairs.

We owe our rapid growth to our core competence of innovative business model and effective management practices. We pride ourselves on our unparalleled, industry-leading execution capabilities, and it is not easy to find another organization such as Wanda that is capable of completing the construction of commercial centers and hotels in such a consistent and punctual fashion. Some of you may not be familiar with cases studies relating to China, so I will give you an example in the US: AMC. After years of recorded losses we turned it around to make a profit in its first year post-acquisition, and got it listed on the NYSE in the second year with substantial returns to shareholders. This goes to show that the success of our rapid development rests squarely on the shoulders of our core competencies.
These screenshots below show the transcript as it originally published (via Google Cache) and how it appeared several days later.

A Chinese language version of the complete transcript of Wang Jianlin's talk was published on the website of the state sponsored Nanfang Group on October 31, 2015, under the title "A Record of Wang Jianlin's Harvard Open Class Speech" (王健林哈佛公开课演讲实录). Here is an excerpt of the Chinese language version of the text excerpted from the Wanda transcript above:


These screenshots show that the article, originally available at this URL - - was subsequently deleted.

These screenshots show that around the same time Sina Weibo began censoring search results for "Wang Jianlin Harvard Speech" (王健林 哈佛演讲).

For additional background of China’s censorship of information relating to the Wanda holdings of relatives of China’s leaders, see Baidu and Sina Censor Information About Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin