Opinion / Huang Xiangyang

Rich beyond his dreams but blind to value of money

By Huang Xiangyang (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-29 07:45

Wang Sicong defines success as "being able to do as I damn well please". Obviously, he has achieved that.

As the only son of China's richest man - Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd - the younger Wang leads an ostentatious life that is the envy of even other fuerdai (wealthy second-generation Chinese).

His motto is "nobody is richer than me". Well, that's obvious. In January, he booked an entire beach and a five-star hotel in the resort city of Sanya in Hainan province to celebrate his 27th birthday. Each guest got an iPad, and the party was entertained by South Korean girl group T-ara.

Dubbed the nation's most eligible bachelor by his 10 million-plus micro blog followers, the young Wang once said his only requirement for a girlfriend was big breasts. Maybe that was just a sign of hormonal overdrive.

But then there was the image he posted on his micro blog that showed him on top of his husky in bed, with the caption "I am f***ing a dog".

Stunts like that just remind people of his vulgarity and penchant for debauchery. He later said it was just a joke and called his critics "morons", displaying the brazen arrogance of someone born with so much money that ethics and morals no longer apply.

All this has taken place in full view of his fabulously wealthy father, who has a net worth of around $40 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In Chinese culture, where the belief persists that "to feed without teaching is a father's failing", it is natural for the public to expect Wang Jianlin to get a little tougher with his son.

But the father seems to have exonerated the playboy by putting all blame on his son's Western education and youth.

"He went overseas to study in first grade and he has a Western way of thinking," said the senior Wang in a recent interview.

I believe that Wang Jianlin is an upright man who did not intend to endorse his son's misbehavior. But to hear words reflecting such a level of misunderstanding of the West from China's most successful businessman is still shocking, given that his ambition is to turn Dalian Wanda into an international behemoth that meets the highest Western business standards.

For Wang Jianlin, some things about the West should be obvious.

First, in the West, a rich father does not necessarily guarantee wealth for the children. Many of the wealthy people there see their offspring as independent human beings who need to stand on their own. They actually fear that wealth could be a hurdle on their children's path to personal fulfillment and self-discovery. That is why Bill Gates has pledged to give all his $58 billion fortune to charity rather than leaving it for his children. And then there is Warren Buffett, who promised to give away 85 percent of his fortune to help the poor.

Second, in the West, many wealthy people are strict with their children and teach them values rather than give them everything they want. "My son, life is like a great campaign. To win, you must work harder, harder and harder," is what John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Co and one of the world's wealthiest men early in the 20th century, told his son in a letter.

I hope words like that ring a bell with Wang Jianlin.

Third, in the West, a person becomes a legal adult at 18, at which point he is responsible for his words and actions. A father would be ridiculed if he said that his 27-year-old son was too young to be accountable for his faults and failures.

At 20, Mark Zuckerberg had already launched Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room, and at 27, Gates had registered Microsoft in New Mexico.

Nobody expects Wang Sicong to change the world the way those young Americans did. But is it too much to expect that he acts like a normal human being?

It seems that Wang Jianlin knows what his son is made of, as he has ruled out letting the young man take over from him at Dalian Wanda. Yet still he has allowed his son to try his hand in business.

A fund run by Wang Sicong was joined by Wanda Investment Co recently in investing in LeTV Sports Culture Develop (Beijing)'s latest funding round, which raised more than $100 million.

I think Wang Sicong wants people to see him as a real businessman like his father, instead of a social media clown. It would only benefit his family's reputation and his own business if the young man could exercise a little more restraint with his acts and words. And that's no joke.

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(China Daily 05/29/2015 page14)

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