Chen Guangbiao: Paper tiger

Chinese entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao's bid to invest $1bn in The New York Times didn't get him through the door – despite having the business card to end all business cards.

Every smart Westerner operating in China knows the local business-card etiquette. The small rectangle of paper exchanged at meetings must be gripped with two hands in order to demonstrate mutual respect. The card must not be casually slipped into a pocket or handbag, but held aloft and admired.

Chen Guangbiao's business card is impossible not to admire – if only for its stunning braggadocio. It describes the boss of Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources as the "Most Influential Person Of China", "China Moral Leader and "Most Well-known and Beloved Chinese Role Model".

Alas, none of these spectacular attributes was enough to get Chen through the door of The New York Times. The 42-year-old recycling magnate had expressed his desire to make a £1bn (£608m) investment in the American journalistic institution. But his response from "the Grey Lady", Chen disclosed this week, was a brief memo declining even a meeting.

What does a wealthy Chinese businessman want with The New York Times? Philanthropy, says Chen. He claimed this week that he desired to "report ways rich people can help the poor". Giving certainly seems to be high on Chen's list of priorities.

He came to public prominence in China in the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, when he donated the use of scores of his company's bulldozers to assist the Chinese state's rescue efforts. The then Premier, Wen Jiabao, described Chen as a "representative of the consciousness" of private entrepreneurs.

Like a Chinese Warren Buffett, the businessman says he wants to donate all his wealth to good causes before he dies.

But Chen also wrote last year of his desire to improve America's understanding of China. Cynics might say that that was a more accurate explanation of The New York Times bid. The paper ran an investigation into the "hidden £2.7bn fortune" of Wen Jiabao in 2012. The exposé went down like a cup of rancid tea with Beijing. Could Chen's bid have been a useful way for him to ingratiate himself with the Beijing regime in order to benefit his Chinese business interests?

That would not be out of character. Last year, Chen took out an advertisement in the same newspaper trumpeting China's claims to the islands in the East China Sea at the centre of the territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo.

Another stunt in 2011 was a trip to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, to hand out money to the poor and to lobby for the construction of a bridge to the mainland. The soi-disant "flashy philanthropist", who owns at least one lime-green suit, has a special knack of pushing the interests of the Beijing authorities.

Despite the hoopla surrounding the bid, which briefly pushed up The New York Times' share price, it was always unlikely to go anywhere. The newspaper's controlling shareholders, the Och-Salzberger family, said that it was not looking to sell. And there is also a question mark over whether Chen's pockets would have been deep enough anyway.

Though he is on Forbes' list of China's top 400 wealthiest individuals, he's well down the table. China is churning out newly minted dollar billionaires as the economy registers growth rates that Western countries can only dream about. At No 1 is Wang Jianlin, the property magnate, with a staggering $14.1bn net worth. Jack Ma, the online commerce supremo, has $7.1bn. That makes Chen's estimated $800m fortune look rather modest.

Still, here is a man who also lays claim to being "Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China", "China Earthquake Rescue Hero" and "China's Foremost Environmental Preservation Demolition Expert". With such a jaw- dropping business card, who would bet against the world hearing from Chen again?

Suggested Topics
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape