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.

当地时间2015年10月29日,万达集团董事长王健林在“哈佛公开课”上发表演讲时,对此前《纽约时报》报道提及的万达股权问题作了正面回应。王健林说,齐桥桥和邓家贵夫妇控股的公司曾投资万达商业地产,并在后者上市前全部转让。
The article, which originally appeared at this URL - http://companies.caixin.com/2015-10-30/100868095.html - 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:
提问:现在我要问一个有争议的问题了,您可以决定是否回答。我看过一篇《纽约时报》的报道,是去年4月28日发表的。说万达之所以发展快,关键是有背景,包括习近平等领导的亲属都是你们万达上市公司股东,请问是否确有此事?

王健林:施老师我看您面相挺老实的,没想到问问题还挺狠,不过既然这么问了,那当着学生的面我也回答。第一、万达没有背景。我来说说事情的真相,2009年7、8月,万达集团旗下的万达商业地产为了解决资金问题,搞了一轮股权私募,委托中国最大的银河证券和中金证券两家券商替我们寻找投资人,前前后后谈了七、八十家公司,最后有十几家公司入股,其中就包括习主席的姐夫邓先生的秦川大地公司,他和建银国际、中国泛海、巨人集团等十几家公司同样价格进来,所以购买价格是市场化的。2009年入股后,由于中国政府政策限制的原因,万达商业地产公司迟迟没有上市,一直到2014年12月份才在香港挂牌上市。但就在上市前两个月,邓先生把他的股份以比较低的价格转让了,其实他是牺牲了巨大利益。正常价格购买、又是正常公开上市,能够获得巨大利益而放弃,我想他应该是受到了某种影响或者压力,这件事恰恰证明了不是腐败,恰恰证明了习总书记治国严治家更严的风格。

第二、万达的快速发展主要靠自己的核心竞争能力。万达在中国赫赫有名的两点,一是商业模式,每每都是创新的;第二是执行力强。举一个例子,我们每年开业几十个万达广场和一、二十家酒店,所有项目开工时就宣布开业时间。十多年下来,我们开业了一百多个广场,近百家酒店,一个项目建设时间都在两年内,全部按时完成,无一延误。这种执行能力我敢说世界上没有第二家企业能做到。如果说我举中国的例子,可能老美还不太服气的话,那我再举一个美国人的例子,就是刚才反复提到的AMC公司。在我买它之前,它的股东都是赫赫有名的企业,比如黑石、凯雷、摩根斯坦利等等,但是连年亏损,我收购过来当年就实现盈利,第二年就上市,现在我的收益已经翻了好几倍。这完全是市场化操作,足以证明万达的管理能力和企业操作水平。所以万达高速发展靠的是核心竞争能力,不是靠什么背景、政商关系。
These screenshots show that the article, originally available at this URL - http://economy.southcn.com/e/2015-10/31/content_135972291.htm - 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

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