The Unpublished Lang Xianping Interview
The following essay appeared at ChineseNewsNet with the explanation: This essay by Chen Min was originally scheduled to be published in the September 28, 2006 issue of Southern Weekend but was withdrawn for an unstated reason. There is no explanation about how the essay then ended up on an overseas Chinese website. This may be related to the general edict to all media to use only the Xinhua reports and nothing of their own. You can read the original Chinese article below this English-language translation.
Under the dim lighting, Lang Xianping smiled mildly and listened. He appeared to be surprisingly low-keyed. But as soon as he spoke up, he became excited in less than three minutes and his eyes were sparkling.
At that moment, Lang Xianping was like an owl soaring from the peak, sharp and fierce.
The talk began with the Shanghai social pension fund. "The first time that I learned about the problem with the Shanghai social pension fund, it was at the end of last year," said Lang Xianping.
At the time, Lang Xianping was hosting a television program titled "Lang chats about finance" in Shanghai. One day, the program team received an email that alleged the Shanghai pension fund was being diverted. The tip mentioned a newly rich Shanghai man named Zhang Rongkun, who happened to be a target of attention of Lang Xianping. "I thought that it was very peculiar that an unknown small businessman could become so wealthy all of a sudden. He was able to spend several billions to purchase two expressways and he became one of the top 40 richest man in China."
Lang Xianping said that this was not his only clue, as he had other sources. All the accusations from different directions point to the same thing: the diversion of the Shanghai pension fund. The research team of Lang Xianping was able to investigate and verify this.
For Lang Xianping, this was an intolerable misdeed. Around 2005, he had repeatedly emphasized on various occasions that the social security pension fund is the life savings of the people and cannot be diverted into the market at the risk of destroying the future wealth of the people.
So Lang Xianping designated Zhang Yongkun as the principal character in the third episode of "Lang chats about finance." The principal character of the first episode was a man named Zhan who headed a private healthcare group which controls practically all of the private hospitals in Shanghai. "They specialized in extortion. They will tell you that you are sick even if you are not. They will tell that you are seriously sick even if you only have a minor ailment." Lang Xianping wondered why the group has not collapsed yet.
In the second episode, the principal character was Shanghai celebrity Zhou Zhengyi. Lang Xianping thought that this mainland businessman ripped off a bundle in Hong Kong, and then he returned to hide in the mainland under the protection of corruption government officials and evaded the punishment of Hong Kong law. This type of precedent cannot be made under "one country, two systems." Therefore, he called for the extradition of Zhou Zhengyi to Hong Kong to stand trial.
To dissect three big shots in a Shanghai television program was obviously sensationalistic. But the associated huge risks can also be imagined by anyone who knows China.
"I knew that there were risks, but I cannot be a member of a decadent society. Lang Xianping's program will reflect the style of Lang Xianping. I will speak about subjects that others dare not mention. I will condemn social ills and move society along." That was how Lang Xianping responded to the reporter's question.
Even though Lang Xianping expected some danger, the scope of the danger far exceeded his expectations. Lang Xianping lost his battle in Shanghai.
This interview with Lang Xianping went on until 12:30am. In bidding farewell, Lang Xianping told the reporter that he has booked tickets to fly to Shanghai tomorrow. It seemed that he just cannot wait.
Q: They must give a reason to stop your program?
A: They found a reason. They said that my putonghua was non-standard. This is unreasonable, because only professional hosts are required to speak standard putonghua. I am a guest, and so there should not be any such requirement. It should be alright as long as the audience can understand me. Using this non-existent reason to stop my program showed that this was more than a technical problem.
Q: How did you feel at the time?
A: At the time, I felt that it was too hard to for one person to fight the entire corrupt power structure. From February this year, I kept silent for seven months. About half a month ago, I began to stand up and speak again. Many foreign reporters asked me, "Did you get any instructions from anyone?" I said that I have not received any instructions. I am speaking out now purely out of the conscience of a scholar and my independent judgment. I am a person without any powers. In order to punish those corrupt authorities, the power of even high authorities is required. I am very happy to see the central government hammering the corrupt powers right now. I want to stand up and echo my support.
Q: All your three cases in Shanghai were fatal. Did you consider the risks at the time?
A: I will not compromise with interest groups. Since I started in 2001, I have always held this attitude. Why do I want to maintain a half-dead-half-alive program through a compromise?
Q: In the matter of Gu Chujun, you did not have 100% confidence in a victory. Yet you persisted. But Gu Chujun was just a businessman. In Shanghai, you were confronting entire interest groups, with completely different quantity and quality.
A: At the time, I was not aware of this problem. I thought that I was facing businessmen again and I was just analyzing these business cases. At the time, I used the same method against them as I did against Gu Chujun. I knew that they would strike back and I was not afraid. The counterattacks from businessmen mean nothing to me and I can handle them. I did not imagine that the corrupt businessmen were inextricably linked to corrupt government officials. After my program was shut down, I realized that the corrupt government officials joined with corrupt businessmen to loot the wealth of the people, and there were many corrupt scholars spreading many specious viewpoints to give them cover and legitimacy. This iron triangle also controlled the media. I did not imagine that they were so powerful, and my personal efforts were totally outmatched.
Q: You have always told the public that you are confident about the central government on the anti-corruption issues. When you encountered these circumstances, did your confidence in the central government waver? Did you have doubts and misgivings about the strong government theory that you always held?
A: I believed even more so in the importance of strong government. At that moment, only an open central government can truly solve the problem. It was impossible to rely only on civilian forces and opinion forces, because the corrupt forces will never let them break through. At this time, an even higher power is needed to wipe away the corrupt forces like a iron broom.
Q: But if the iron triangle that you mentioned is not restricted only in Shanghai, then what?
A: Then China will be like the Philippines and it will sink right to the bottom. But I clearly see that China is not in that situation.
Q: You regard yourself as a local fighter who trusts the central army and therefore you want to help the central army rout the corrupt forces. Is that the right analogy?
A: That is the situation. I was doing the right thing, except I underestimated the enemy. But I became more firm. I kept my cool and I waited for the chance. When the army from the central government arrived, I came out and worked in concert with them.
Q: I noticed the path by which your thinking has evolved. When you first began to talk about the China problem, you focus your attention to the businessmen. But beginning last year, you made a turn and you challenged principally the corrupt interest groups which constitute your iron triangle. But does this mean that your understanding has changed from shallow to deep?
A: It requires experience when you are dealing with the China problem. My observations and thoughts on the China problem form a process of accumulation of experiences. Beginning with one businessman, I gradually realized that this was not a problem about that one businessman. Why can he sell off state-owned properties so cheaply? After peeling off the veneer, I discover that the real reason is often because government officials are colluding with business people to divide state-owned assets. Shanghai has the most classical cases. I did not begin with wanting to criticize Shanghai government officials, because I did not imagine that there would be government-business collusion. But I found out that corrupt businesses were always linked to corrupt government officials. Corrupt government officials, corrupt business people, corrupt scholars, this corrupt iron triangle will be the greatest roadblock to Chinese reforms and they are public enemies. I came so late from Hong Kong tonight to meet you in Shenzhen because I want to warn about the iron triangle through you.
Q: Your deepest experience with the iron triangle was in Shanghai? Did you start thinking systematically about the iron triangle in Shanghai?
A: It is like this. When I first arrived in Shanghai, I did not think too much. After the program began, I had more opportunities to get information. I did not imagine that this seemingly attractive Shanghai had so many things going on behind the scenes.
Q: Of the three famous Shanghai cases that you worked, the social security pension case has broken open and the Zhou Zhengyi case seemed to be nearly done. But Zhan's hospital group case is still remote. Do you want to continue to tussle with them?
A: I am still tussling with them. Two weeks ago, I was still exposing them.
Q: This type of courage is rare. Many expert scholars won't do it.
A: Our civilian sector is a decadent civilian sector. There is no little moral courage.
Q: I noted that you have been warning about the interaction between the corruption within the system and civilian decadence. When you say civilian decadence, do you mean mainly the decadence at this level? Or mainly about the expert scholars?
A: Of course. When I say civilian decadence, I don't mean the decadence of the civilians. The civilians are not responsible, especially the socially vulnerable groups who are only trying to survive and therefore one cannot talk to them about moral standards. When I say civilian decadence, I refer mainly to the expert scholars, who have the power to speak and who are the elite. Their decadence may be due to direct or indirect rent-seeking, but their ideas are objectively serving the corrupt iron triangle.
Q: Realistically speaking, the mainland expert scholars have made significant contributions in analyzing the China problem. People like Qin Hui and Sun Liping may have done deeper and more systematic thinking that you have. But they only discuss their ideas among scholars. You are different, because you bypass the elite and you speak to the general public. Therefore, you succeeded because the public knows you but not the others.
A: From the first day, I never had any psychological inhibitions about speaking to the general public. I believe in the wisdom of the people and the truth exists for the people. If the people can be told the truth, many problems will be readily solved. Therefore, the right of the people to know is most important.
Q: It is not that mainland scholars don't know that, but they find it hard to get out of their own small circle. There are many reasons for this. Some scholars believe that they are strategists and they lack confidence in the people. This seems novel, but it is a traditional belief to think you can use people but you don't have to inform them. Thus, their eyes always look upwards. Other scholars have ideas, they have conscience but they lack moral courage. If you speak to the general public, the risks are greater and they don't dare to brave these risks. Then there are some scholars who have ideas, conscience as well as moral courage, but they don't know how to speak and they don't know how to use the language of the general public to talk to them. There are really not many mainland thinkers who dare to speak and can communicate with the general public. The people need to know the truth, but very few people speak the truth. Actually, there is a hidden rule: you can say anything you want behind closed doors, but you cannot speak to the people. Anyone who speaks the truth to the people is violating the game rules and is therefore a black sheep who must be ostracized. The difference with you is that you ignore this hidden rule. You dare to speak, you are willing to speak and you have the ability to speak.
A: Yes. For example, when I discuss the issue of trust and responsibility for state-owned enterprise leaders, I draw an analogy and the people understood me. I used the example of a nanny. I am willing to speak directly to the general public. I don't care how the elite chatter about me, and I don't care how they criticize me, because they are not the target audience of my speeches.
It is pathetic that people who are willing to say some truthful things like I do should be rarities. What is the big deal about Lang Xianping? I'm no big deal. Of course my academic background is different from others, but many others can see what I see and possibly even more thoroughly. So why doesn't anybody speak up? We have so many elites who do not see the real problems, and there are quite a few who colluded with the corrupt ones. Who are the ultimate victims of these bad relationships? The ultimate victims can only be those common people who have no power.
Why do I care so much about the Shanghai social security pension fund? Because this is a classical case of the iron triangle. The life savings of the people were loaned to a small entrepreneur so that he can purchase two expressways. Then he took the two expressways to raise more money, to be shared among corrupt businessmen and corrupt government officials. When a media outlet reports on this, they shut it down. When a conscientious scholar dares to report on this, they round up their vassal scholars to launch attacks.
This iron triangle is too powerful They control the media and they control the local government. They even use the media control to communicate the wrong information to the central government and thereby mislead the central government.
Q: There is a question here. You are especially concerned about corruption in mainland China, but what are your views on the amazing corruption around Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan?
A: I believe that the people on both sides of the strait have a new common understanding of corruption. I want to go through you to ask people to pay attention to two new understandings. One is that the people on both sides of the strait are trying to clean out their own internal corruption. The other is that in mainland, the central government has declared war on the iron triangle and this matches public opinion. What is needed now is for public opinion to respond energetically towards the action of the central government and to expand the common understanding of the central government and the people. The greater the common understanding between the central government and public opinion, the more harmonious society will become.
(Channelnewsasia) China's "Larry King" speaks out on the canning of TV show.
One of China's most popular television hosts says he was forced off the air by just-fired Shanghai Communist Party boss Chen Liangyu because he was preparing a show about the graft scandal that led to the politician's downfall.
Lang Xianping, who garnered a reputation as the "Larry King of China", had his controversial financial program on Shanghai television axed in February after he was officially told his Mandarin Chinese was not good enough.
"It was just an excuse," said the native Chinese speaker and host of "Larry Lang Live", a weekly talk show that drew millions of Chinese viewers for its sharp but colorful criticism of the country's endemic corruption problems.
"The real reason the show was cancelled was I was designing a show behind the corruption case of Chen Liangyu," Lang told AFP in an interview from Shanghai.
Beijing announced on Monday that Chen, the most powerful official of China's eastern commercial hub, had been sacked due to his alleged links to the misuse of about 400 million dollars from the city's retirement deposits.
According to Lang, 50, a Taiwanese national whose day job is teaching finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he was set to air a program focusing on graft when authorities suddenly pulled the plug.
One of the episodes in his special three-part series was to tackle investment manager and non-executive director of state-run giant Shanghai Electric Group, Zhang Rongkun, who was detained last month for his role in the pension scandal.
"Zhang was my target because we wanted to know how this man had so much money to be able to build two highways," said Lang.
"At the time, I did not know about Chen."
Lang aired one chapter on medical malpractice and a second on Zhou Zhengyi, the Shanghai real estate tycoon who was jailed in 2004 for stock market fraud but also indirectly linked to Chen.
In the second episode, shown once before it was pulled, Lang argued that Zhou, who also has equity interests in Hong Kong, should face charges there too.
After his 18-month show was canned entirely, Lang, a self-confessed lover of the limelight, disappeared from the public eye.
"It was dangerous," said Lang, who received death threats as well as calls in an internal report authored by Chinese academics for his incarceration and/or expulsion from the country.
AFP was unable to independently confirm Lang's claims.
The chief editor of Larry Lang Live, Wang Lei, was reluctant to discuss details concerning the program's abrupt end when contacted by AFP.
Lang had also incurred the very public wrath of officials after charging that executives of state-owned enterprises engaged in management buyouts were hoodwinking the public by securing assets at bargain-basement prices.
In his weekly cable program Lang often argued that the government should halt such practices until a stronger legal system capable of monitoring such acquisitions was put in place.
Mainland academics and company officials responded by calling Lang an anti-reform traitor, a charge which he said only strengthened his argument and went to the heart of China's widespread corruption problem.
His controversial position also struck a chord with a public that worries corruption is China's biggest challenge after nearly 30 years of economic reform that has vanquished Marxist ideology in favor of unrestrained capitalism.
Lang, who maintains Chen's fall from grace proved he was "correct" about social security graft, said he broke his self-imposed silence because it was now safe to do so and he was keen to get back on television.
"I initiated this myself," Lang said, adding that he was waiting for the political dust to settle before approaching the Shanghai leadership about resurrecting his television career. - AFP