What It Means When Charlatans Have Access to Our Leaders

07.30.2013 18:01

Closer Look: What It Means When Charlatans Have Access to Our Leaders

Government and business elites can preach materialism all they want, but when they take advice from frauds they’re showing how little faith they have

By staff reporter Wang Xiaoxiao


ang Lin with photos of some of the people he has advised

The name of a qigong master, Wang Lin, has become an Internet buzzword because he has high-powered followers and the public wonders why.

Wang, a 61-year-old native of the eastern province of Jiangxi, made his name in the late 1990s when qigong – an ancient admixture of breathing exercises and meditation – was a national fad, although he was able to keep a low profile. He claimed some unusual abilities: he said he treated various heads of state for their diseases and showed visitors how he could make a snake appear in an empty pot. Wang has garnered a circle of followers, and is continually referenced and visited by various celebrities and officials.This so-called “man of God” and other such unusual “masters” have become big names among not only celebrities, but also within official circles and in the business world. Those pictured with a smiling Wang include former railway minister Liu Zhijun, former health minister Chen Minzhang and former top prosecutor Jia Chunwang.

In July, Wang was visited by Jack Ma, the founder of Internet giant Alibaba, and other celebrities. This not only dashed his low profile, but also made him the target of public criticism. A picture of Wang with Ma was posted online and Web users started to question the background of the grand master. Media investigations followed.

A CCTV program said Wang was performing nothing more than small tricks, and one of his disciples said Wang cheated him out of more than 7 million yuan. The disciple recently sued Wang in a Jiangxi court over a disputed real estate deal, but a verdict has not been reached.

While the brouhaha over Wang is still unfolding, the public wants to know why celebrities are so eager to gather around such a person.

Lei Yi, a historian at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says that this is due to a sense of insecurity troubling China’s political and business elite. They hope to receive some sort of blessing and turn to these “experts” for career advice and luck.

Wang told Liu when he was the railway czar that he could place a special stone in Liu’s office to help “ensure a lifetime without failure.” This not only reflects Liu’s lack of confidence regarding his future, but a certain doomsday mentality in politics.

A lot of these well-known “masters” are skilled in manipulating people, Lei said. Unlike religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, which have doctrines, what these qigong “masters” promote is just magic and witchcraft, he said.

Lei said that superstition is common in all walks of life, but this “man of God” phenomenon among senior officials and businessmen is worth special attention. While the worship by entertainers can be written off as a hobby with little public influence, in the case of officials it reflects a paradox because they are the ones openly preaching and advocating materialism and atheism. These words diverge radically from their thinking, Lei said.

Ultimately, Lei said, this phenomenon showed that “this is an era of lost faith.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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