On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the New York Times profiled head of the Peking University student union Xiao Jianhua, who worked with the government to try defuse tensions ahead of the protests. Now in his forties, Xiao is a billionaire with close ties to China’s ruling elite, but in a response to the profile he claims to have earned his fortune by following the example of Warren Buffett not through political corruption.
A statement released by his company Tomorrow Group says that Xiao’s reaction to Tiananmen Square and the crackdown that followed was to end his involvement in politics in favor of business, but that there was no quid pro quo support for his cooperation as student union leader.
Xiao calls himself a loyal student of Warren Buffett
“After studying Mr. Warren Buffett’s business philosophy, Mr. Xiao thought that engaging in business might be more suitable for his character,” the statement says. “As a loyal student to Mr. Warren Buffett’s theories, Mr. Xiao always makes judgments on the trend of stock market and investments in onshore and offshore markets based on his own study and at his sole judgment.”
Xiao’s early start was as a computer reseller with other ventures that encouraged Peking University graduates to start their own businesses. The Times says that Xiao received funding from Peking University, but Xiao denies that there is any connection between the financial support and his actions in 1989.
The rest of the statement reads like a blanket denial of wrongdoing that doesn’t much refute the substance of the Times profile. While each individual deal may have incidentally benefitted relatives of Chinese president Xi Jinping, former central bank chief Dai Xianglong, and others, the pattern of involvement is really the point.
Xiao donated $50 million to Chinese universities
From the tone of the Tomorrow Group statement, it seems to have struck a nerve. The Chinese government is taking a harder stance on corruption these days, perhaps motivating Xiao to Buffett’s lead on what to do with his wealth now that he’s earned it. He has donated $50 million to Chinese universities and has said that he will continue to give donate to other organizations. Now all that’s missing is a pledge to give all his money to charity after his death and a call for higher taxes.