Flamboyant Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbiao, who made his fortune in construction materials, said last week he was in the market to buy The New York Times, one of the most influential news media globally.
But was he really serious? A week after he made his desire public, the proposed purchase seems to have fallen flat.
“The level of difficulty is great,” he said of the purchase on Tuesday, according to Reuters. Chen said that he was denied even a meeting with the company that owns the paper. The company is valued at $2.3 billion, but Chen had only estimated its value at $1 billion.
Chen said he is also interested in other Western media, such as CNN, the The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
The episode, over for now, was quite possibly just another gimmick along the lines of Chen’s numerous previous stunts.
After Chen held his press conference in New York City on Tuesday, the event took a bizarre twist. After discussing The New York Times, Chen presented a mother and daughter, who were horribly disfigured from burns, saying that he was funding surgery for the two who claimed they lit themselves on fire 13 years ago in Beijing in the so-called “Tiananmen Square self-immolation” incident. Reports indicate that the event had all the trappings of a propaganda stunt sponsored by the Chinese government.
The alluded to self-immolation incident, which has been thoroughly debunked by the Falun Dafa Information Center, Western media, and the United Nations, involved people pretending to be Falun Gong practitioners. State media at the time in China claimed Falun Gong practitioners had lit themselves on fire and used this incident to justify the government’s brutal persecution of the group, which continues today.
In other strange propaganda stunts in China, which Chen himself refers to as “flashy philanthropy,” Chen decorated a Chinese television studio with 16 metric tons of 100-yuan bills to promote China’s national economic census. On another occasion, a day with particularly severe air pollution, Chen held a press conference in which he handed out free cans of fresh air. In yet another stunt, he gave out Chinese-made cars to people whose Japanese-made cars were destroyed in anti-Japanese riots.
Chen’s latest gimmicks raise some interesting questions. The largest country in the world with the number two economy, China is producing billionaires like Chen or groups of Chen-like Beijing loyalists who could conceivably start to control and shape Western media agencies that now pride themselves as hallmarks of impartiality, freedom, and human rights.
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