It was quite the wake-up for attendees at the WEF debate on Chinese-American-European cooperation. After a “well meant advice” of Harvard Professor Joseph Nye about Chinese policies in the South China sea, Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, had had enough.
“I’m not happy with the professor’s comments,” he said. “This is an economic debate. Not a political one. This is not polite.” In this initial and later reaction, he revealed a few interesting things about his strategy and temper – and made it seem as though influential Chinese are misunderstood by the outside world.
First, a quick recap of the discussion.
In giving his assessment of China as a rising economic power, former National Intelligence Council chairman Joseph Nye questioned China’s political influence. “Don’t assume that China is passing the US in overall power,” he said, “Particularly if you add in military power and soft power – which is to get what you want through coercion rather than head on collision.”
美国国家情报委员会(National Intelligence Council)前主席约瑟夫•奈在评估中国作为一个正在崛起的经济大国时，对中国的政治影响力提出质疑。“不要以为中国正在赶超美国的整体实力，”他说。“尤其是在你结合军事实力和软实力的情况下——也就是说，通过胁迫，而不是直接冲突，获得你想要的东西。”
He gave the example of China’s policy in the South China sea, where China’s military fleet intervented to keep Philippine fishers out of its international waters (which made the countries relations “go bananas”). “You have to balance hard and soft power,” he advised.
The example added to an earlier comment the professor made on China’s conflict with Japan over three islands located between the two countries. “Let the conflict shiver for another generation,” Nye suggested. “Don’t put it on the stove.”
But Wang Jianlin, the man behind Dalian Wanda and currently on a buying spree in the West, didn’t like the advice. He took his next speaking opportunity to criticize Nye in words atypical for Davos. “I am not happy about the professor’s comments about the Chinese fleet,” he said. “This is not the topic for today’s discussion.”
Then, he switched gears, and said something which seemed like a warning of his own. “[I often get the question] whether we should invest in China or abroad [with Dalian Wanda],” he said.
And he clarified: “To be frank, in China we would have a return on investment several times higher than the one we can get in the US or Europe. But we have a new target, to be a transnational company. That is why we go abroad.”
Lloyd Blankfein, the world’s most important financier, and Nick Clegg, both also present in the debate, acted as if the incident hadn’t happened.
出席这场辩论的世界上最重要的金融家——高盛(Goldman Sachs)首席执行官劳尔德•贝兰克梵(Lloyd Blankfein)和英国副首相尼克•克莱格(Nick Clegg)-——表现得就像根本没有发生这件事。
But it had. Here are three thoughts post-event:
1. Chinese business men like Wang may dislike outside meddling in their country’s “internal affairs” as much as their political leaders
2. Wang Jianlin has more interest in building an empire than making the most money, according to what he said himself, undoubtedly adding fuel to those in Europe and the US that distrust him
3. Even for Nye, formerly dean of the world’s most prestigious international relations school, the Kennedy School at Harvard, it’s sometimes impossible to stay out of a diplomatic incident.