Chen Guangbiao

Chen Guangbiao: The audacious eco-warrior with a weird reputation

Photo above: Getty Images

Most Influential Person of China; Most Well-known and Beloved Chinese Role Model; China’s Foremost. But who are you, really? An open letter to Chen Guangbiao

Red Bulletin Rebel Special - Meet the inspiring game changers doing things their own way - and saving the world. Chen Guangbiao is featured in the “Rebel Yell” special in July’s The Red Bulletin Magazine.  

Dear Mr Guangbiao,

The following things are written on your business card next to your name: Most Influential Person of China; Most Well-known and Beloved Chinese Role Model; China’s Foremost. Forgive the impertinent question, but who are you, really?

We’ve read about your substantial wealth and eccentric activism in the press – it’s much more interesting than your role as the head of Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources Ltd.


Chen Guangbiao, 48, is a philanthropist and environmental activist from China. His bizarre political stunts have a touch of the performance art about them. Our interview requests fell on deaf ears, so we wrote to him instead.

The company has distributed cans of fresh air. You’ve destroyed your Mercedes with a wrecking ball to promote a car-free day. You’ve lifted a pushbike in your teeth and spun it as evidence that cycling is healthy. It’s all good publicity, given that it always happens on camera, but it’s all a bit much. To make an environmental point, you’ve even gone as far as to have your name changed by deed poll to Mr Low Carbon.

Who are you trying to impress? Are you doing all of your headline-grabbing stunts for purely philanthropic reasons? And do you really care about the plight of others or the environment? Malicious critics claim that the only thing that’s sustainable about your environmental activism is the boost it gives your ego. We’re still awaiting a response from our numerous interview requests. Sadly, we’ve had more contact with Mailer Daemon than with you.


An idea nicked from Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs: fresh air in a can


In fact, we haven’t heard anything from you for some time. Not since you were found to have faked your ice-bucket challenge by placing ice cubes in 25°C water. Your company’s website has been offline since 2013. All of the telephone numbers lead nowhere. Your supposed assistant, who has the same name as a Chinese Manga warrior, sounded rather sleepy when she first picked up and then put the phone down on us. Where are you? Have you gone into hiding? Are you locked up? Have you disappeared?

In America, people are still stunned by the commitment you made to the poor. You offered to pay for a gala dinner for 250 homeless New Yorkers and promised each of them $300. You also wanted to buy The New York Times so that it would be ‘more objective’ when writing about your homeland in future. All very noble. It’s just a shame that the homeless New Yorkers haven’t seen the money yet. And The New York Times hasn’t even taken you out to discuss your offer.


Who are you, really? An art project? A perfect example of social satire? Who wrote the script – Sacha Baron Cohen? And is it just a coincidence that Guangbiao translates as cursor? 

Whatever the truth, we take our hats off to you. Because you remind us how much we love a weird spectacle. Because you do that money-to-burn thing that only the super-rich can do. And because you offer us solutions that are much too simple in times which are anything but. 

You’re a fairy-tale rebel.

Read more
07 2015 The Red Bulletin

Next story