|Mr. Xiao and Silvio Berlusconi|
Simple, Dr. Watson, it is simply Mr. Xiao.In January, I mentioned on this blog this shadowy figure associated with a few foreign ventures of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The BBC News’ Shanghai correspondent had just reported about ‘China's super-rich communist Buddhists’, in which there was a footage of an audience given by the Dalai Lama to Xiao Wunan.
But who is Mr. Xiao?
Officially, he is the Vice-President of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), an organization based in Hong Kong, generally linked to the CPC.
Mr. Xiao, the Buddhist
I personally heard the name of Mr. Xiao for the first time when in November 2012, the Indian media reported that ‘Prachanda gets China NGO help for Lumbini’
The Indian Express said: “Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda signed the much trumpeted $3 billion Lumbini development project with Asia Pacific Exchange Cooperation Foundation, a Chinese outfit, claiming it will elevate Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, to a world-class city attracting tourists and pilgrims from across the world.”
A Chinese Communist outfit investing in a Buddhist project!
Quite an unbelievable news!
The Indian newspaper continued: “The agreement was signed by Xiao Wunan, Executive Vice Chairman of APECF and Prachanda in his capacity as the Chairman of the high-powered steering committee appointed by the Government of Nepal. But members of the non-Maoist political parties in the committee challenged his right to sign the project without keeping the body informed.”
Minendra Rizal, former Minister for Culture and a Nepali Congress leader complained: "The issue was not discussed in the committee, and it has not authorised Prachanda to sign it in the manner he did.”
The controversy snowballed and a few weeks later, Prachanda one of the nine APECF’s Vice-Chairs backtracked “following protest from Nepali authorities, especially the way the government was bypassed in the deal.”
Later, the then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appointed a high-level steering committee with Prachanda as its Chairman to explore Lumbini's development.
A Maoist looking after Buddhist affairs, isn’t funny?
Already in July 2011, The China Daily had announced a plan to raise US $ 3 billion to turn Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace in Nepal into a Mecca for Buddhists: “a Hong Kong-based transnational foundation signed a memorandum with a United Nations agency that promotes industrialization in developing countries. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization will rely on its Beijing-based investment and technology promotion office for China to offer technical support for the project in Lumbini, Nepal.”
But, the alarm bells had started ringing in Delhi; it is logical considering that Lumbini is located a few kilometers away from the Indian border and 3 billion dollars is rather a large amount.
Mr. Xiao, apparently very keen to promote Buddhism, had claimed he had discussed the project with the UN authorities, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who was supportive.
It did not smell too good.
The Economist had also reported that China was planning to invest $3 billion in Lumbini: “After Prachanda, the leader of Nepal’s Maoists, stepped down as prime minister in 2009, he several times met representatives of APECF. In July Chinese media reported that the Hong-Kong-based foundation—which is widely thought to have China’s backing—had signed an agreement with UNIDO, the UN’s industrial-development organisation, to invest $3 billion in Lumbini.” Later the Nepalese government refused to entertain the deal. “If this was an exercise in Chinese ‘soft power; it was a disaster’, The Economist commented.
Despite the 'uproar', Xiao Wunan was for a week in Nepal.
The APECF website says: "From August 14th to 22nd , the Executive Vice Chairman of APECF Mr. Xiao Wunan, the Deputy Secretary General Ms. Gong Tingyu and Ms. Ge Chen, etc and representatives from China Railway 21st Bureau and China Potevio Group visited this area mentioned above, and had extensive exchanges with all parties in the aspect of bilateral and multilateral religious and cultural exchange and the further implementation of Lumbini Recovery Plan, and obtained fruitful results."
The Lumbini project is certainly not shelved as: "During the visit in Nepal, APECF delegation visited Mr. Parmanand Jha, the Vice President of Nepal, Mr. Prachanda, the President of Lumbini Development National Directive Committee, Mr. Posta Bahadur Bogati, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Hridesh Tripathi, the Minister for Physical Planning, and Mr. Kamal Thapa, the Minister for Telecommunications."
It seems that Mr Xiao wanted also to help Nalanda!
|In 2012 in Dharamsala|
Around the same time, the China expert Jayadeva Ranade wrote in the DNA: “In a recent apparent bid to ease these tensions, Chinese authorities quietly sent an emissary and contacted Tibetan leaders in Dharamsala. Thinly cloaked as a venture of APECF, a Chinese government-sponsored NGO manned by Chinese Communist Party cadres, the initiative seeks to revive plans to consolidate and expand China’s presence in Nepal and ingress India and its border regions, ostensibly by encouraging Buddhist tourism in Lumbini in Nepal. At least one executive director of APECF has links to China’s military establishment.”
Ranade mentions Mr Xiao’s visit to Dharamsala: “Xiao Wunan, a senior CCP cadre and executive vice-president of APECF visited India and was received in Dharamsala on August 16 by the Dalai Lama, Lobsang Sangay, then ‘Kalon Tripa’ (prime minister) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and Ugyen Thinley Dorjee, who is formally approved by the Dalai Lama and Beijing as the XVIIth Gyalwa Karmapa, or head of the Karma Kargyu sect. Xiao Wunan was accompanied by Gong Tingyu, a Deputy Secretary General of APECF and Simon Kei Shek Ming, reportedly a journalist of the Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Zhoukan.”
Ranade speculates: “During his meeting with the Dalai Lama, Xiao Wunan probably carried a personal message from a senior Chinese leader, possibly Xi Jinping. He could have informed the Dalai Lama that he was welcome to spend his last days in Beijing provided he gave up ‘anti-China’ activities and expressed support for the Communist regime.”
Apparently, the encounter between Mr. Xiao with the Karmapa did not go too well and the young Lama walked away. Mr. Xiao had probably ‘offered’ something to the Karmapa.
At that time, I wrote on this blog: “According to the website of the APECF, a delegation from this Hong Kong based organization ‘visited India and Nepal upon invitation’. The website gave some details: "During the visit in India, APECF delegation went to Dharamsala and visited the 17th Karmapa, both parties had a pleasant talk about the issue of bilateral religious and cultural exchange."
Well, it was not too pleasant for the Karmapa.
I then noted: “The APECF webmaster has forgotten to mention that Xiao Wunan also met with the Dalai Lama and Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected Tibetan leader.”
Why to mention Karmapa only?
The Chinese leadership probably wanted to keep the encounter with the Tibetan leaders as informal and low-key as possible.
During the next few days, none of the Tibetan websites reported the event which is an important one.
I then was not aware of some other facets of Mr. Xiao's character and skills.
Who is really Xiao? Who are his sponsors in Beijing? Why is Xiao suddenly back on the Buddhist stage? How did Xiao Wunan get the footage of his audience with the Dalai Lama?
Why has he decided to make it public to the BBC in January 2015?
Why has he not ‘released’ footages of his interviews with the Karmapa and Lobsang Sangye, the Tibetan Prime Minister?
It is difficult to answer these questions.
By the way, when he met the Dalai Lama, Xiao Wunan was accompanied by Simon Kei Shek Ming (alias Ji Shiming), a Hong Kong journalist who later interviewed Prof. Jin Wei of the Central Communist Party School. The latter suggested that Beijing should invite the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong.
Was Mr. Xiao is an emissary of the Party? A messenger of Xi Jiping? Whatever it may be, there is no doubt that his visits abroad are related with the fact that Beijing tries to project a 'soft' image of a Middle Kingdom and aim at becoming the leader of the Buddhist world.
From where does the cash come from?
At the time the ‘Lumbini’ project was launched, a Chinese publication affirmed: “As part of the project, the APECF has promised to bring roads, communication equipment, water and electricity to Lumbini, a poverty-stricken United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site that attracts about half a million visitors a year.”
Isn't it amazing?
The China Daily affirmed that the APECF’s board is composed amongst others of Steven Clark Rockefeller Jr.; Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress; Leon H. Charney, a real estate tycoon and former US presidential adviser; Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); and Paras, the former Nepali crown prince known for his excesses.
In 2011, Xiao Wunan had explained that the Lumbini project will help "transcend religion, ideology and race" and rejuvenate the culture and spirit of Buddhism. …Buddhist dignitaries from around the world, including those from the Mahayana, Hinayana and Tibetan schools of Buddhism, have expressed enthusiasm about the plans.”
This does not explain from where the billions come from.
But there is little doubt that Beijing, with the help of Xiao Wunan, is keen to see China taking the lead in the world Buddhist movement.
It is worth a few billion dollars.
Mr Xiao in France
But that is not all about Mr. Xiao.
In October 2014, Xiao Wunan was in France.
A Chinese publication reported: “A dinner to celebrate the Sino-French ‘SeaOrbiter’ was hosted by the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and co-sponsored by the APECF. It was held in French navy headquarter on the evening of October 16. Admiral Bernard Rogel, chief of staff of the French Navy, Mr. Jacques Rougerie, initiator of the 'SeaOrbiter' project and Chairman of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, Mr. Xiao Wunan, Executive Chairman of APECF, Mr. Li Shaoping, Cultural Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in France, and other distinguished guests attended the dinner. In March this year, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to France, the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and APECF signed a memorandum of understanding on the SeaOrbiter–China Project in Paris. They plan to build the world's first 'SeaOrbiter' in the South China Sea.”
SeaOrbiter has become a Sino-French project!!
In a speech in August, the eclectic Mr. Xiao had explained that China's State Council (Cabinet) “officially listed the SeaOrbiter as one of ten major scientific and technological projects and praised this cooperation from a national strategic perspective. ...China hopes this project will turn it into a maritime power and assume more responsibility exploring our oceans.”
Why is China so interested in the bottoms of the seas?
It is simple, Dr. Watson. This knowledge is required by the ever-increasing fleet of submarines of the Chinese People’s Liberation Navy (PLAN).
Collaboration with SeaOrbiter could greatly reinforce the PLAN’s knowledge of South China and East China Seas (the relatively ‘noisy’ Chinese submarines need to have good maps of the reliefs at the bottom of the seas).
A few billon invested in such ‘scientific’ project could bring high returns for the PLAN.
Xiao Wunan is indeed very versatile
A month earlier, he visited Tel Aviv at the invitation of Israel's Labor Party. The APECF website says: “During the visit, they exchanged ideas with Israel's Labor Party, the Prime Minister's Office, think tanks, the national bank and other institutions and achieved fruitful results.
He met Isaac Herzog, Chairman of Israel's Labor Party who gave him an autobiography of his father (the former president of Israel).
Mr. Xiao has a particularity: he likes to be photographed with important persons. One can understand, as he probably has to report to Beijing about the huge amounts of money he lavishly spends when he moves around.
Later, he was spotted in the United States.
Who are Mr .Xiao's sponsors?
Some rumours have linked an APECF's Vice-Chairman with Zhou Yongkang, the demoted former member of the Politburo's Standing Committee. Is Mr Xiao's money coming from in oil, gas, media, hospitality and communications?
It is doubtful because Zhou will be soon judged for corruption and Mr. Xiao is still going strong. But it is worth watching as he has apparently a free hand to distribute millions of dollars.
Mr Xiao and Cannes Festival
Mr. Xiao is not only interested in Buddhism and the bottom of the seas, he is also a film buff.
According to The China Daily, China plans to create an ambitious $1bn Cannes-style film festival in the eastern coastal province of Zheijiang.
An article in the daily says that the Chinese authorities are working with their Cannes counterparts on planning a film-themed tourist centre three hours from Shanghai.
The China Daily affirms: “Chinese authorities are teaming with counterparts in the French city, which has hosted the event since 1946, to bring a similar festival to the county of Anji. The aim is to build a Gallic-themed ‘film city’ and tourist centre in one of China's most scenic regions, which is known for its bamboo forests and is a pilot region for green building.
And who appears on the red carpet of the Chinese Cannes?
Yes, guessed right: Mr Xiao of course!
“Xiao Wunan, of the APECF, told The China Daily that the program was aimed at establishing a milestone for film in the world's most populous nation," writes the Chinese daily.
Mr. Xiao explains: “This film festival should also maintain strong Chinese features. We hope this program can push China's film industry to a higher level.”
The Chinese newspaper give the rationale of the project: “Anji was only connected to the Chinese national network of highways between 2000 and 2002, and it remains one of the country's less-developed regions. However, it now takes fewer than three hours to reach Shanghai by car and the area has increasingly attracted investment from China and abroad.”
One can already guess that the carpet of the Anji Film Festival will be red.
Mr. Xiao and ASEAN
You may think that Mr. Xiao deals only in Oceanography and Spirituality or occasionally Cinema, but you are wrong, he is also involved in politics.
In November 2014, Xinhua covered the meeting between the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and those of China who gathered in Myanmar for their annual meeting, “to usher a new era in their dynamic cooperation for mutual benefit.”
Xinhua said that China and the 10-member ASEAN labeled the past 10 years a ‘golden decade’ for their relationship, but the next 10 years will be ‘diamond decade’.
After 21 Asian countries, including nine ASEAN nations, established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the infrastructure freak Mr. Xiao told Xinhua: “The ASEAN countries want to use China's investment to improve their infrastructure, which will certainly consolidate the economic bond between the two sides."
The official news agency reported that Mr. Xiao believed that “an improved infrastructure system, such as high-speed railway, electricity and telecom networks, will further boost the transfer of technology, export of goods and movement of skilled labor in the region.”
The APECF Buddhist Vice-President philosophically stated: “Differences are inevitable in the China-ASEAN relations, but both sides will see their economic cooperation develop in a deeper and more pragmatic way."
Mr. Xiao clearly understands politics and economics.
Mr. Xiao, the football fan
But Mr. Xiao is also a sportsman.
Xinhua reported: “An APECF delegation led by executive vice chairman Xiao Wunan met former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the International University for Liberty on March 9, 2015. They had comprehensive and in-depth discussions and reached consensus on the areas of cooperation including education, media, sports and health. They signed an MOU.”
Xinhua explains that Berlusconi is one the three most influential people in the world (sic) along with Mr. Vladimir Putin and Mr. Barack Obama: “Mr. Berlusconi has worldwide influence and a legendary life experience, making great advances in the areas of business, media, sports, etc. He was ranked No. 1 in Italy's Fortune List for years, founding and leading many world class media groups, leading and managing the AC Milan football club to become the most successful and influential football club in history.”
But the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China did not tell us the entire truth: Mr. Xiao is trying to buy the Milan AC Football club from Mr. Berlusconi.
An Italian website linked with the illustrious club (forum.acmilan-online) asserted that Richard Lee, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman known for importing luxury sports cars was heading a Chinese consortium bidding to take over Italian soccer giants AC Milan: “Lee was rumored to be in the San Siro to look for partnerships in Asia at that time. He came back three months later with some of the most powerful Chinese business men and also has the government of China invested in this consortium.”
La Gazzetta dello Sport had earlier reported that Richard Lee Man-fai has been in negotiations with club owner Silvio Berlusconi “as head of a group with close links to the Beijing government.”
Then Mr. Xiao enters the football field.
The Italian website said: “The APECF are rumored to be one of the major players in this consortium and they are partly owned by the government. President of China, Xi Jinping, seems to have given his personal backing for this deal and wants it to happen.”
Forum.acmilan-online explains the move: “The Chinese see Milan as an opportunity to improve the standard of football in China. They have always had larger than life ambitions and President Xi's latest ambition is not different - he wants China to host the World Cup and win it. If you went thirty years back and heard China say we want to become an important player in the economy of the world, we would've laughed at them and guess who's laughing thirty years later? Yep. They see Milan as a perfect opportunity to have a presence in Europe and China has been investing heavily in Italy in recent years, so this large investment in Italy wouldn't be a one-off or the first of it's kind. Milan for them is not just a football club that'll be treated like a fun project, no not at all. They see this deal as a very important step for the culture of the Chinese people, they have said that this deal is a lot more than just football.”
Will Mr. Xiao be more successful than with Lumbini and Dharamsala?
Only the future will tell us.
In the meantime, India should watch the eclectic CPC’s ‘United Front Work’ official, simply because he has a lot of money, and whether it is in Delhi, Lumbini, Dharamsala, Paris or Roma, money could be a temptation.