Chinese Billionaire Joins Japan Relief Effort

While Beijing extends a helping hand to Japan, the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report describes the private relief efforts of one of China’s richest men:

Chen Guangbiao, a 42-year-old billionaire and chief executive of recycling company Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources, headed to Japan Friday to personally donate rescue supplies and 13 million yen (US$158,820) to the country’s earthquake and tsunami victims, according to the Yangtze Evening News (in Chinese).

With four vans draped in Chinese national flags and wearing a suit decorated with Chinese flag stickers, Mr. Chen distributed food, water, sanitary goods, blankets and “good wishes from Chinese people” to shelters in the northeastern Japanese prefectures of Chiba, Ibaraki and Fukushima, the report said. He personally pulled three people from destroyed homes, the report said without elaborating further ….

Besides delivering supplies, Mr. Chen contributed an estimated 2 million yen to street-side money boxes. “I also put my name card in the box to let them know the donor is a Chinese, an ordinary Chinese man who wants to help,” the newspaper cited Mr. Chen as saying.

Mr. Chen’s sudden generosity towards a country that once occupied parts of China has some Chinese netizens up in arms. “Chen Guangbiao’s head must have been kicked by a donkey, he’s such a national scum,” one netizen writing under the name jznhys said on China’s microblogging site NetEase Weibo. “With that money, he could have donated to poor students in rural China. What’s the point of rushing to show off in Japan?”

Part of the point may lie, literally, in the debris carpeting the stricken areas. From a Beijing Review feature on Chen (via Adam Minter):

In 2003, an old stadium in Nanjing was to be demolished and he was invited to get involved. The job needed to be finished in one month and he would be paid no money. So he had the idea that he could sell the used iron which might make a profit. He decided to give it a try. Finally he sold the used iron alone for 4 million yuan ($588,200) and earned 1.85 million yuan ($272,000).

Chen found a viable and profitable way to recycle the waste. So he next decided to focus his efforts on the industry and established a recycling company called Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources Co. Ltd. Beside the iron that could be sold to iron and steel companies, the cement block could be recycled into concrete after it was mixed with water, cement and sand, he said. And with different additives, all the construction waste could be made into at least seven types of building material, such as landfill, red brick and building blocks ….

Chen’s company has changed China’s demolition industry. Just a few years ago, the construction owner was forced to pay around 10 yuan ($1.47) per square meter to tear down a structure, but now the demolition companies spare no effort in winning projects on which they charge no fee.

Over the years, he has found that almost all the waste can be turned into profit, including old tires, disposable infusion bags and plastic needle tubes that can be made into synthetic-rubber tracks and tires for agricultural use. Household appliances and machinery can also be disassembled and recycled.

Humanitarian motives should, of course, not be discounted; as the China Real Time Report post notes, Chen has also offered a posthumous $105 million donation to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s “Giving Pledge”.