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Cablegate: Guangdong Overseas Chinese Businessmen's Association Stands

VZCZCXRO3911
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0851/01 2080700
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270700Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6315
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000851

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD PGOV CH
SUBJECT: Guangdong Overseas Chinese Businessmen's Association Stands
United -- "Front" That Is

(U) This document is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: In a conversation with the Consul General on July
26, the new head of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese Businessmen's
Association, Zhou Zerong, said that the provincial government, with
central government backing, had decided that the new organization
was necessary to link together four other disparate, municipal-level
groups dedicated to assisting overseas Chinese. The implication,
despite Zhou's comments to the contrary, is that the group's
formation has more political meaning than economic -- that it is
part of the party's United Front strategy. Zhou himself, the very
well-connected head of the Kingold real estate group here and one of
China's wealthiest individuals, said the (current) 386-member
Association would also have a working level office that provided
assistance in terms of helping overseas Chinese access the local
market and deal with challenges. End summary.

The role of the Association and Government supports
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (U) Prior to the founding of this provincial-level Association,
Zhou said, there were similar municipal-level groups in Guangzhou,
Shenzhen, Zhongshan and Jiangmen (all Pearl River Delta cities).
These associations served as a bridge between overseas Chinese
investors and local governments, protecting members' rights, filing
complaints, participating in local social charity events, and
"conveying" Government messages to members. The new provincial
Association, which is supervised by the Guangdong Government's
Overseas Chinese Council, includes members of the municipal
associations as well as representatives from enterprises throughout
Guangdong. Zhou added, in response to the Consul General's
question, that Taiwan enterprises can also join the Association.

3. (U) The founding meeting clearly had political implications, with
participation by Ren Qiliang, Deputy Director General of the State
Council's Overseas Chinese Council; Chen Shaoji, Chairman of the
Guangdong CPPCC, Huang Longyun, Guangdong CPC Standing Committee
Member and Executive Vice Governor; and Zhou Zhenhong, Guangdong CPC
Standing Committee Member and Director General of the United Front
Department.

4. (SBU) The Association also includes a number of honorary chairs,
including Lu Ruihua, former Guangdong Governor and now Vice Chairman
of the NPC Overseas Chinese Committee; Zhang Guoying, former
Guangdong Congress Chair and also a Vice Chairman of the NPC
Overseas Chinese Committee; Guo Rongchang, former Chairman of the
Guangdong CPPCC and now Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong, Macao,
Taiwan and Overseas Chinese Committee; and a host of other officials
in the Guangdong Department of Foreign Trade and Economic
Cooperation.

5. (SBU) Zhou -- who spent four years in Australia in the 1980s and
was ranked by Forbes as China's fourteenth richest person for his
dealings in real estate, media and restaurants -- said the formation
of the Association was the brainchild of the Guangdong provincial
leaders and he was told it might be a good idea if she served as
Chairman. One of his seven Vice Chairmen is Zhang Yan, the
chairwoman of Nine Dragons Paper Company, of whom Forbes wrote that
she was richer than Oprah, an appellation that she likes.

Bio note on Zhou Zerong
-----------------------

6. (SBU) The 53-year-old Zhou was born in Chaozhou in eastern
Guangdong. Zhou went to Hong Kong in the 1970s and attended
university there. In the 1980s, in Australia, he built his first
fortune by selling minerals, seafood, frozen food and fruits to
China. Zhou, who holds an Australian passport and whose wife and
two children live in Sydney, is well connected to local government
officials. In addition to his new role with the Overseas Chinese
Businessmen Association, he also chairs two other similar chambers.
He was invited by Beijing to become the Chairman of China
International Chamber of Commerce for Overseas Chinese Enterprises,
but declined, citing the press of business. Zhou is thought to have
used his considerable connections to take over "New Express," a
major daily newspaper in Guangdong founded by Yangcheng Evening News
Group; the latter affiliated with the Guangdong Provincial CPC.
Zhou reportedly paid tens of millions of RMB for the paper, an
unusual transaction given government sensitivity to media control in
China. Although both Kingold and the Yangcheng Evening News Group
co-operate the Express, it is in reality controlled by Zhou's empire
out of the Kingold building.

Comment
-------


GUANGZHOU 00000851 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) The founding of the Association likely will not lead to an
upgrade in more high-end and environmentally- friendly foreign
investment in Guangdong. Most overseas Chinese invested projects
continue to be labor-intensive or polluting ones; according to Zhou,
such investments are, in fact, not/not actively discouraged as we
thought, but just don't get the favorable conditions provided to
technology and market-leading firms. It strikes us that the
Association is essentially a creature of the CPC's United Front
program and the code phrase -- promoting a "harmonious society" --
likely tells all one needs to know about its activities. End
Comment.


Goldberg

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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