Unsurprisingly, the people of China aren’t taking Chen Guangbiao‘s proposal to purchase the New York Times very seriously or with much delight. Netizens have called the idea ‘inappropriate’ with ‘microscopic’ chances of success, Foreign Policy reports, reactions leading Chen to conclude that Chinese people are just too conservative.
Yesterday, the multi-millionaire and philanthropist known for his sensational PR stunts posted to his Weibo account an image of his plane ticket bound for New York City. “Taking action is more important than everything else,” he wrote. Chen announced earlier this week that he planned to make an offer to buy the Times, which he has estimated to be worth around $1 billion.
“There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price,” Chen said in a Reuters report from Tuesday.
The company’s chairman, Aurthur Sulzberger, Jr., recently said in statements that the Times, which has been controlled by the Ochs-Suzlberger family for more than 100 years, is not for sale.
But Chen may have to do more than convince a New York family to part with its prize: His quixotic effort doesn’t even have support at home. A widely-circulated opinion piece from Chinese web portal CRI Online calls Chen’s proposal “inappropriate” and its chances of success “microscopic,” mainly because U.S. media and politicians at “every level” would oppose a Chinese bid. That, the author reasons, is enough to render “naive and immature” Chen’s stated desire to make the New York Times‘s coverage of China more “fair and objective.” Much of the Weibo commentariat agrees, with many commenting that Chen is a “clown” or a “tuhao,” an insult hurled at the nouveau riche, who would buy the moon or “the U.S. government, if he could.”
Yesterday, Chen published an op-ed piece in über-nationalist paper Global Times telling readers not to “treat as a joke” his plan to purchase the company.
“Why is this purchase bringing out so much misunderstanding and mockery?” Chen asked his readers. His conclusion: Chinese people are too conservative.
Many readers actually expressed more liberal viewpoints, saying that Chen’s purchasing of the Times would lead to its downfall by turning it into a dreaded dangbao, or “party paper” (see: The Global Times).
“Money can buy a pile of papers, but can it truly purchase the values of freedom of the press?” one Weibo user asked.
“If I acquire the Times, the paper will only report the truth and must verify all information,” Chen was quoted as saying upon news of the proposal.
He believed that the paper, which was blocked in China in 2012 following a New York Times exposé revealing the secret wealth of former premier Wen Jiabao’s family members, “contained biased and negative things that were not verified”.
“Chinese people don’t not read the New York Times because it’s not in China; it’s because powerful forces use every dirty means to try to make Chinese people mute, blind, and stupid” one netizen said.
A league of supporters on the online web portal still cheered him on nonetheless and wished him well on his trip. Chen said that he expects to discuss the matter on January 5 during a meeting with a “leading shareholder” in New York.
Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman, told Foreign Policy, “we have no information” on any such meeting with Chen.