Bin Qi, an executive vice president at China Investment Corporation — the country’s equivalent to a sovereign wealth fund — is a big fan of Chinese overseas investment. Just not in movies.
“I do have a lot of reservations with those people who come to Hollywood and buy up companies,” Qi said on a panel on the Chinese economy at the Milken Global Conference Monday evening. “I have no idea what they’re doing.”
On the panel moderated by Bloomberg correspondent Haslinda Amin, Qi and other executives weighed in on whether China is a superpower and how its prodigious market influences the world. Chinese cash poured into Hollywood for the last couple years, until it ground to a halt late last year in the face of tightening regulations, which were largely responsible for the failure of major deals such as Dalian Wanda Group’s proposed $1 billion acquisition of Dick Clark Productions. Qi shared insights into the mentality behind that tightening.
“There has been a lot of Chinese investment overseas — maybe too much,” Qi said, to nervous laughter from some members of the audience. “You have seen the overseas investment has surged so much. Some of those investments were not making economic sense. That’s what we need to fix. You’re going to see more rational overseas investment going forward.”
He also took on Hollywood’s habit of catering to the world’s second-biggest movie audience by inserting in a peripheral Chinese character or two.
“Marketing in China by adding two servants who happen to be Chinese in a movie,” he said. “That’s ridiculous. That’s not going to improve Chinese culture. I’m so disappointed by China’s film and entertainment industry in general,” Qi said.
Lawrence Ho, chairman and CEO of casino and hotel company Melco Resorts & Entertainment, couldn’t help himself from piling on some of China’s ill-fated — and unconsummated — movie deals.
“There are some foolish investments and when you see steel companies and metal companies investing in Hollywood,” he said on the panel, referring to Anhui Xinke’s failed acquisition of Voltage Pictures.
“There’s a consensus that China’s going to change culture through Hollywood. I think that’s a long way away,” he added.
However, one media entity that has changed as a result of Chinese ownership is Forbes, which was acquired by Hong Kong-based Integrated Whale Media in 2014.
“We make decisions with a different mindset than we did before,” Forbes Media CEO Mike Perlis said on the panel. “And I suspect that in every company where there is investment from China — and that number is growing all the time in every sector, they are experiencing that mindset shift.”
That’s manifested itself in different ways, including an increased focus on emerging markets. Perlis said Forbes is up to 36 international editions. And while many Western plutocrats on Forbes’ billionaires’ list try to hide from the attention, that’s not the case across the Pacific.
“In Asia, particularly in China, I’m asked why the number’s wrong — why it’s so low,” he said.