Chen Guangbiao, a Chinese billionaire with a penchant for performing dramatic acts of charity, claimed on December 31, 2013 that he was planning to buy the New York Times during his New Year's trip to the United States, despite the publisher's denials that the famed newspaper was up for sale.
The billionaire wrote in Chinese tabloid the Global Times that he is willing to spend his life savings on purchasing the New York Times and will reform the paper by improving its credibility and objectivity once the acquisition is completed.
Given his previous eccentric public performances, such as handing out 100 yuan (approximately 16 US dollars) paper bills on a Beijing street, or selling canned air online to buy the Diaoyu Islands, most Chinese people saw the news as another performance of the same kind.
In fact, it turns out Chen is not nearly rich enough to make a successful deal. Currently, Chen's wealth is worth one billion yuan (approximately 16 million US dollars), while the New York Times has a market value of 2.4 billion US dollars. When confronted with the finance question, Chen replied in his typical eccentric fashion that if he did not have enough money to buy the paper, he could buy a page [zh] which he would top with the banner “China New York Times”.
Back home, Chinese Web users joked about Chen's grandstanding and suggested that he buy local papers, such as the People's Daily or the Global Times, instead.
On Sina Weibo, China's popular microblogging website, Siling Ben, an artist, pointed out that Chen is a typical example of the bad behavior of China's riche nouveau:
Chen Guangbiao made a big fuss and flew to the US. Such an eye-catching act is so typical of him. It is just a New Year's joke. The New York Times did not make any comment on the rumor. This is like a slap in the face to him. When a country cannot integrate with the world on some fundamental values and develop humanistic concern among its people, no matter how rich the country is, the wealthy act like thugs and royalty and cannot gain respect from others on the world's stage.
Weibo user “Big Bear” made a similar argument with more moderate tone:
Chen Guangbiao has done much charity work, this is respectful. But his generosity could not cover up his ignorance, without the belief of American freedom, can the New York Times still be the New York Times?
Shanghai-based Weibo user Chen Jinguo re-posted an imagined conversation between Chen Guangbiao and the owner of the New York Times:
The story started with Chen Guangbiao's arrival to New York City, and the negotiating between the owner of the New York Times and Chen began. Q: “What is your major business?” A: “Recycling, including copper, iron and paper, anything reusable.” Q: “Why do you want to buy the New York Times?” A: “I also recycle paper!”
Film critic Zhou Liming suggested Chen buy the White House instead:
I wish Brother Biao would buy the White House instead. Then he could ask his men to sit at the entrance and sell tickets to cover the cost. Buying the New York Times is such a small deal.