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Chinese Real Estate Mogul Takes a Shot at President Trump

One of China’s most successful real estate billionaires is taking a few shots at the new U.S. president, using an end-of-year video to relay his message that “globalism and regional protectionism” simply cannot go hand in hand.

Soho China chairman Pan Shiyi started out the video with some optimistic observations about the internet and the importance of environmental responsibility, but then swiftly moved into a warning about 2017 as the video showed images of then-President-elect Donald Trump speaking. As those images played in the background, Pan noted, “The sycophantic small people of history always sacrifice overall interests in order to gain or maintain the interests of their own small group.” He predicted that the contrast between sycophants and “gentlemen” would become even more stark in the coming year. (Gentlemen with kindheartedness will sacrifice for the common good, Pan said.)

While the allusion to the new president of the United States seems fairly obvious (although Pan did not at any time mention him by name), it is not surprising that China might feel threatened by some Trump’s stated policy plans, including focusing more on building up American-made products rather than importing foreign goods.

It is not surprising that a Chinese billionaire would want to emphasize the importance of free trade, given that the country has benefited from this practice all over the world. Pan and others no doubt feel threatened by President Trump’s proposed 45 percent tariff on imported goods.

Pan Shiyi and his wife, Zhang Xin, founded development company Soho China in 1995 and are highly influential media figures in China. Zhang is a former Goldman Sachs executive and one of China’s most popular bloggers. Together, they are the 32nd-richest individuals in China, and Shiyi alone is the 406th-richest person in the world (as of 2014’s Hurun Report). He is known for his successful private entrepreneurship in a country that often limits individuals’ abilities to manage their money and business affairs independently, and his company caters to the needs of small- and medium-sized Chinese businesses.

Pan is known for encouraging open discussions about Chinese economic development and industry trends. There even is an internet slang term named after him. The “Pan Shiyi” is a unit used to describe real estate prices in terms of 1,000 RMB (Chinese Yuan Renminbi) per square meter.

Back in 2005, Pan and Trump met during negotiations between Mark Burnett Productions, which produces “The Apprentice,” and Pan Shiyi about hosting a Chinese version of the show. At the time, Trump was preparing to face another Chinese real estate tycoon in court while potentially also launching the Chinese “Apprentice,” which was similar to that individual’s own proposed reality television show that would feature entrepreneurial competition among younger Chinese business owners. Trump’s show with Shiyi did not launch, and his former partner-turned-legal-opponent’s show did not last long. Shiyi was not part of the consortium of Chinese billionaires that invested in the Trump’s New York real estate in 1994 and fought a legal battle over the details of the culmination of that deal about a decade later.

Some analysts have speculated that Trump’s real-estate-related business dealings with Chinese investors have soured him on the country’s entrepreneurs and may be playing a role in his outspoken criticism of the country’s role in the U.S. economy. Interestingly, however, Trump received a significant amount of support from traditionally politically indifferent Chinese immigrants to the United States, snagging possibly as much as a third of the traditionally left-leaning or non-voting population, according to the South China Morning Post. It remains to be seen, however, how the new president will fare with Chinese businessmen and women still residing in China.

You can read more of Carole VanSickle Ellis’ coverage of this and other topics at Self-Directed Investor News.

About the Author

Carole VanSickle Ellis is the host of Real Estate Investing Today, a daily nine-minute investing podcast, and the editor of the Bryan Ellis Investing Letter. Contact her at editor@bryanellis.com or visit www.selfdirectedinvestor.org.