Sat, Aug 04, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Bloggers bite Beijing on Blackstone investments

HIGHER RETURNS Strident nationalism is taking on a new form in China where bloggers and some media are urging the government to invest with more care

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , HONG KONG

The first purchase by the Chinese government's new overseas investment fund, a US$3 billion stake in the Blackstone Group, has produced an unusual public backlash within China.

Since Blackstone went public on June 22, the company's shares have fallen steeply, pushing down the value of the Chinese government's investment by more than US$425 million in just six weeks.

Chinese bloggers, and even some financial media in Hong Kong, have not taken the hammering lying down. They are assiduously keeping track of the dwindling value of the government stake, and some bloggers and postings in Internet chat rooms are bitterly questioning Bei-jing's stock judgment -- often in particularly Chinese terms.

"O senior officials of the Chinese government, please do not be fooled by sweet-talking wolves dressed in human skin," said one of seven scathing Internet postings compiled by an anonymous blogger on Sina.com. "The foreign reserves are the product of the sweat and blood of the people of China, please invest them with more care!"

In a sign that the Chinese government may be less comfortable with the marketplace of ideas than they are with the stock market, the blogger's entry was visible on the Web site on Thursday afternoon, but had disappeared by Thursday night.

Access to other entries by the same blogger was blocked, but milder criticisms of the investment by others could still be found.

"It is really alarming the speed with which the Chinese government entered into this investment," read one, signed "anonymous person 586215," which remained on Sina.com on Thursday night.

Foreign investments are particularly tricky for the Chinese government because of the public's virulent nationalism, born of a history of occupations like the British capture of Hong Kong in 1841 and the Japanese 1931 conquest of Manchuria.

The same online writer who warned of wolves in human skin, for instance, also cautioned, "These fierce wolves are similar to the foreign thieves who pillaged our forefathers, only they are all the more cunning and manipulative, but their goal of pillaging China does not change with the centuries."

For decades, China's central bank followed the example of most central banks by investing the bulk of its assets in Treasuries and other government bonds. But as China's foreign reserves have quintupled in five years, to US$1.33 trillion, the government has started chasing higher returns.

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