An exhibition of flamboyant leadership

Not everyone has the money to promote his company, pet projects and himself in the way China’s multi-millionaire Chen Guangbiao does. He first gained notoriety when he appeared on site 36 hours after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 with 60 cranes and trucks to help with rescue efforts. He personally handed out cash to destitute villagers and donated $15 million toward reconstruction in the region.

Other philanthropic/publicity efforts include a visit to Taiwan, an island China has claimed for decades, where he donated $17 million to underprivileged families; and a trip to Japan after its devastating tsunami to provide much needed food, money and other necessities to victims. Then, when protests against Japan broke out across China recently over conflicting claims to the Diaoyu Islands, he bought dozens of Chinese-made cars to give to those whose Japanese-made vehicles had been damaged.

This month, Guangbiao was in New York City with two immolation victims from the Falun Gong protests in Tiananmen Square in 2001. He plans to pay $2 million for reconstructive surgeries that he says will restore them physically by 80 percent. The women, a mother and daughter, are purportedly members of the Falun Gong spiritual group who have recanted. Guangbiao also took advantage of the news conference to sing a song he had composed himself.

Not all his projects seem quite so helpful. In a self-proclaimed effort to draw attention to the pollution problem in China, he sold “Chen Guangbiao: Nice Guy” fresh air in soda pop-sized cans. He claimed the air was collected in remote regions of China untouched by pollution and that proceeds would be donated to the military for their efforts to “protect” the Diaoyu Islands. The sales pitch evidently convinced the public because the cans of fresh air flew off shelves the first day they were introduced in 2012.  According to CNBC, he sold eight million cans during the last ten days of January 2013 alone. Social media reports indicate that the canned fresh air is still on the market.