One of the best feelings I have as a writer is when something I’ve worked on sparks a conversation I could have never even imagined. That’s why I was so thrilled to find this post at the China Beat:
Learning from Lai Changxing?
Last year, Angilee Shah wrote a review at China Beat of Oliver August’s Inside the Red Mansion. The review inspired Simon Fraser University Professor Jeremy Brown to assign the text to a class and he recently invited the book’s protaganist, Lai Changxing, to join his class for a day. Brown and one of his students provide an account of the day’s visit below…
I enjoy writing book reviews, but it never occurred to me that readers might take any action other than a trip to their local library or bookstore. It certainly never occurred to me that Lai might agree to being questioned by a classroom full of students. I only wish I could have been there.
Luckily, Prof. Brown and his student, Xian Wang, provide a nice summary. If you haven’t heard of Lai Changxing, I highly recommend this post and August’s book. Here’s a bit more from Fraser and Wang:
In his responses to student questions, Lai alternated between innocent charm and aggrieved combativeness. He denied giving officials cash-filled briefcases and providing them with modern-day concubines. But he admitted that he actively sought out and took advantage of loopholes. In order to avoid customs duties when importing oil and luxury cars to China, Lai said that he had his oil tankers unload when nobody was watching. His overarching goal was to make more money, he said, so he was constantly looking for opportunities. When local officials announced that new businesses would be exempt from taxes for three years, Lai opened a series of ventures, and then shut them down and changed their names before they hit the three year mark, managing to perpetually avoid taxes.
Thanks again to the folks at the China Beat for facilitating such rich conversations.