CHINA’S MEDIA MOGUL TRANSCRIPT
The glitzy new China and the wonderfully traditional old one meet here in downtown Beijing every morning. Their backdrop, a recently built luxury shopping mall, is just across from our hotel in the money market district, appropriately enough on Financial Street. It's just a little up-market. Louis Vuitton, Versace, Dior, Gucci, Ferragamo - name your label, it's here. But, trust me, you wouldn't want to shop in this place unless you'd robbed a bank first or carry one of those limitless black Amex cards. In its own glaringly ostentatious way, you could say this place is a microcosm of the new China, or at least the new Beijing - rich and flaunting it.
REPORTER: George Negus
When China's reformist former leader Deng Xiaoping made that historic and quite startling declaration that to be rich is glorious, the old revolutionary hardliner Mao Zedong must have rolled over in his mausoleum, and in the West many declared communism dead and buried.
Well, dead or alive, things are certainly changed here in recent times in what is still officially the communist People's Republic of China. But these days here there are people in the republic and there are people. A few have a lot of money. Some have considerably more than
I'm pretty confident I can get out of here without touching my credit card but, seriously, in this nation 1.3 billion people, right now - would you believe? - there are 415,000 millionaires and - wait for it - more than 100 billionaires and rapidly rising. Are we talking about China or the US here?
But one of the great paradoxes of the early 21st century life must be that this, the world's emerging economic superpower on steroids, at the moment is actually replacing very, very quickly state wealth with private wealth. They no longer despise capitalists in this country. They venerate them.
So let's put a face to those amazing squillionaire figures. He's not filthy rich - he's just a bit grubby. He doesn't know what he's worth but I can tell you it's a lot.
Our friendly Chinese squillionaire doesn't turn up at the office all that often but he had no problem with us poking around in his absence. What did we find out about him? Well, he certainly likes sculptures of naked women, he's into horses big-time, he's been to the film festival in Cannes, in fact, he's picked up the odd award. Getting warm, I think. And he obviously gets on with his kids.
His name is Wang Zhongjun. Mr Wang is 40-odd and he and his brother head up one of China's most successful movie and media empires. He mightn't be a doctrinaire Marxist but he is certainly a modern Chinese mogul. And it shows, as a visit to his gated mansion on the outskirts of Beijing revealed in no uncertain terms.
You need all day to see these paintings. There's the chairman.
WOMAN: At the moment it's cheap, not very expensive.
Now that you've got a few extra dollars you can buy some. What a wonderful way to walk into a home.
GEORGE NEGUS: Mr Wang, thank you for having us in your magnificent home. I feel like I'm not in a home. I feel like I'm in a gallery.
WANG ZHONGJUN, MEDIA MOGUL (Translation): Thank you, I feel the same way myself.
GEORGE NEGUS: Could I ask you how much the paintings are worth?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Each of the paintings in this house is worth in general US$1 million.
GEORGE NEGUS: Each one? This one? That's $1 million?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): It is worth US$1.5 million.
GEORGE NEGUS: I'll take it with me when I go. Can I ask you very silly question? What did you do before you became a millionaire?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I have done a lot of different jobs, I was a soldier, I also worked in the Chinese government. Later on, I also worked as a freelance artist.
GEORGE NEGUS: How much did you earn when you were working for the government, a year?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Less than US$100.
GEORGE NEGUS: And then in 20 years maybe you've gone from US$100 to - how much money are you worth now?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Because I am not a listed company I have no obligations to disclose my financial situation, but I can say that I am able to earn about US$10 million a year.
GEORGE NEGUS: Around about - give or take a million. When you were growing up as a young man in China, did you think about being a millionaire or was that something that never, ever occurred to you?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): It did not occur to me twenty years ago, 10 years ago I thought it was possible because I had started this business and had my own company. The Chinese economy was developing so rapidly that it was capable of producing many millionaires. So I felt it was not a problem.
GEORGE NEGUS: What do you think that Deng Xiaoping meant when he said to be rich is glorious? People think that was a moment of great change in China when he said that.
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I remember Deng Xiao Ping said ‘Let some people get rich first.” I always remember this. Now I fully understand the social changes as a result of what he said. You can let some people get rich first, but you can’t make one billion Chinese rich all at once. It’s like a farmer’s family with a few sons, they can only afford to send one to university, this son gets rich first. Those who get rich first have obligations to help others. This is very much the result of Deng’s idea. I really like what he said.
GEORGE NEGUS: At the moment, though, there's a widening gap between the people like yourself who are rich and millions, ten of millions of people in China, maybe hundreds of millions of people in China, whose lives have not changed, who are still poor. Does that bother you?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Relatively speaking, Chinese people in general are much richer than they were 20 – 30 years ago. Of course they are not getting rich as fast as those who are already rich. In fact, helping people.... is not just about giving money, an enterprise like ours creates many employment opportunities, we have also improved our employees’ income level and quality of life. I do not believe that only a few can get richer while most people get poorer. Some will get richer, most people will have better lives I think.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you see a social and cultural role, an important role, a responsibility for people like yourself who have become millionaires so quickly?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Entrepreneurs without social responsibility are not welcome.
GEORGE NEGUS: I saw a very interesting portrait of Mao Zedong in your office and a beautiful, beautiful work on your wall there of Mao in the garden with friends. I sometimes think if Mao was alive today in China he would be shocked.
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I think he would have liked to see a better China.
GEORGE NEGUS: Chairman Mao would be shocked to find that things were better.
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I would think so.
GEORGE NEGUS: Were you ever a member of the Communist Party?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Yes.
GEORGE NEGUS: Are you a member of the party now?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Not anymore.
GEORGE NEGUS: When did you stop being a member of the Communist Party?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I didn’t formally quit, there was a procedure for members to register, but I went to the US to study for a few years and I didn’t have a chance to complete that registration. So my membership lapsed... I’m not sure what it’s called. Anyway, I am not a Party member any more.
GEORGE NEGUS: A lapsed communist.
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Yes.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do you think of yourself as a communist?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Most of my ideals are still the same, the aims I have been pursuing have not changed much. A Communist Party member is not one specific thing, the ideas and attitudes to life that I got from my education have not changed very much.
GEORGE NEGUS: Can you be a communist and a capitalist at the same time?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I’m not sure if I’m a capitalist or a communist, I don’t think people think much about ‘ists’ today. All we need to do is work hard to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. That is what I think.
GEORGE NEGUS: Why did you choose to make your money through movies? I know you were in other things - advertising and the like. But why movies? Why did you choose movies as a way to spend your life and make your money?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): It is a matter of what opportunities arise. 20 years ago, I never thought I would become a film – maker. Film – making was a mystery to me. It was a coincidence that I made a film, then I found that it was a great business and I enjoyed it. So I went on making movies, more than 40 so far. It just happened, it was not planned.
GEORGE NEGUS: So that's another 'ist' - an opportunist. You are an opportunist as well.
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): You could say that, as you said, in the past the Chinese did not really have a clear idea about how to do business, but successful entrepreneurs seize an opportunity.
GEORGE NEGUS: You're older and wiser these days.
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): Not older.
GEORGE NEGUS: Younger and wiser. Can I ask you this? Everybody in the world is thinking about China. When you think it's all heading? Are we going to see the 21st century as the Chinese century?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): The media around the world may think that China is growing very fast, some say this will be China’s century, I don’t really think so. I think every country goes through good times and bad times. Of course I would like Huayi Brothers to become a world – class media company, everyone has a dream, I also have one. I have never thought the 21st century is the century of China.
GEORGE NEGUS: How long will it take you for your company to be bigger than Warner Brothers?
WANG ZHONGJUN, (Translation): I think it would be absurd to talk about that now, I can not give you a time frame as to when we’ll be able to do better than Warner Bros. We’ll do our best, I think.. in 10 or 20 years China will have some world class media companies. I think that will be the case. Will mine be one? I don’t know.
GEORGE NEGUS: Thank you very much. Thank you for having us in your home. And this of course is the man, Deng Xiaoping. It's all his fault. Is he your idol because he said it was OK to get rich?
LAU KWOK LING
KONG WO TANG
Original Music composed by