Friday, May 27, 2016

Culture of Cheating, Chinese version: "It’s normal. Anyone would do that.”

Do I have any specific suspicions regarding the ethics of Greenland Group, the Shanghai-based (and government-owned) parent of Greenland USA, the 70% majority owner of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park (except the B2 modular tower, owned fully by partner Forest City Ratner, and the Barclays Center operating company, owned by Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim)?


Do I have any specific suspicions about the immigrant investors, mostly from China, who are supplying over $500 million in low-cost capital under the EB-5 program, and gaining visas for themselves and their families?

No. (Though the source of EB-5 funds can be suspect.)

Do I have any specific suspicions about the expected fraction of Chinese investors buying condos in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?


But let's just say that they're all connected to a country and business/government culture not known for integrity. And that's not the best fit for a project that, as I've written, already exemplifies the Culture of Cheating.

And, as described below, there's a new, disturbing anecdote.

Recent history

Transparency International ranks the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean); China's number is 37, and its rank among 168 countries is #83 (up 17 places from #100, although its index score only increased by one point).

From Age of Ambition
Then there's Evan Osnos's fascinating 2014 book Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, which noted (right) that paying for power was so common a new word entered the lexicon. Read the bottom:
Every country has corruption, but China's was approaching a level of its own. For those at the top, the scale of temptation had reached a level unlike anything ever encountered in the West.
Remorseless cheating

Now comes a 5/25/16 Reuters special report, Deception 101: How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges.

Among other things, it describes the case of Shenzhen native Xuan “Claren” Rong, who went to the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts and used a service that a tipster said ghostwrites college applications and doctored transcripts.

(Despite the tipster contacting the University of California Davis with such concerns, the university didn't investigate until Reuters--which could make a records request of this public university--got the tipster's correspondence.)

Rong's father to Reuters "expressed no remorse" about sending a fake transcript.

“We just wanted to get in a better school,” he said. “It’s normal. Anyone would do that.”

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