Chinese executives speaking out on social issues

April 08, 2015 10:54
Zong Qinghou has criticized restrictions on new car sales in several cities. Photo: Bloomberg

Some mainland Chinese executives are breaking with tradition to make their voices publicly heard on social issues.

But they are treading carefully on more controversial matters, for fear of a fresh crackdown on dissent by Beijing, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Several of the executives say more needs to be done to raise the country's birthrate. Despite an easing of the one-child policy in late 2013, no baby boom has materialized.

James Liang, the co-founder and chief executive of travel site International Ltd., is one of the executives who have encouraged employees to have more children.’s incentives include interest-free loans for employees that exceed the government fines they would still have to pay for violating the relaxed one-child policy.

Property developer Guangzhou New City Life Group is providing interest-free loans for its 200 employees to have more children.

“I care about many issues in China,” the newspaper quoted chairman Cao Zhiwei as saying. “But with this one, I knew I could make a difference.”

Since President Xi Jinping came to power about two years ago, the government has tightened its control of the internet and arrested prominent lawyers and activists.

Nonetheless, some Chinese firms are testing the limits.

Many are seeking ways to develop their brands with social messages, in the same way US companies like Google Inc. and Starbucks Corp. have done.

“This is a case of people gently pushing at the boundaries of the system,” the newspaper quoted Scott Kennedy, director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying.

In February, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., chaired by Jack Ma Yun, awarded 10 same-sex couples all-expense-paid trips to the United States this summer to get married, a controversial move in a still conservative culture.

Zong Qinghou, chief executive of beverage maker Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co. Ltd., has spoken publicly against restrictions on new car sales in cities including the firm's home base of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, which is also home to Alibaba's headquarters.

The curbs are meant to ease congestion, but Zong said China could build more roads and bypasses instead.

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