TalkAsia Interview with Controversial Publishing Mogul
Jimmy Lai


ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA

 A media empire built on risk and controversy. From
working on the black market as a young boy to starting
what would become a major clothing brand, and later
transitioning into all forms of media.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 Jimmy Lai has faced his fair share of
challenges and picked quite a few battles
along the way. He's blasted leaders in Beijing.

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 I'm very successful, I made a lot of money
and I've no sense of fear.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 He's a shrewd businessman, outspoken,
provocative and he is gearing up for his next
big venture.
 What is it about mainland China that just
rubs you up the wrong way?

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 It's not mainland China that rubs me
the wrong way. It's the dictatorship that rubs
me the wrong way. It's the freedom that
we as Chinese people are not allowed to
flourish, that rubs me on the wrong way. I
don't have dignity.
 And to me it's not a political issue whether
you have democracy or what. It's a moral
issue. You know, I think morally a person
should be free. I was...I live in China. I
suffer in China. Not because I suffer, so I take
revenge now. Because I suffered, I know how
important freedom is to a person.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 Going back to 1989 and Tianamen Square, you
like many other people were absolutely outraged at
the events that you saw unfolding, and you spoke
out in a now very famous editorial in which you likened
certain members of the Chinese leadership to a turtle's
egg. Which is an extreme insult in Chinese culture.

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 Right. Right.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 What was the fallout from your words?

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 I was just very angry. That's impulsiveness. Maybe
somebody says this is uncouthness, but I did it. I
paid for it.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 How did you pay for it?

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 Well, I had to close down my factories in China.
Eventually I had to sell Giordano, which I built, because,
you know, otherwise our shops in China would be
closed, and without the Chinese store as a public
company we are dead, so I had to sell it. I have no
regrets.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 People see you very much as publish the
boundaries, some people even think you totally
overstep them. There was one article that I read
about you that said, "Lai has never met a paparazzi
shot or a gory crime scene photo that he wouldn't
publish."

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 Well, that's not true. That's not true, but
we sometimes overstep. That's true. Well,
it's just sometimes we...well, every time
we make a mistake, we apologize for it.
 I just tell all my people, I say, look, we're
not...we are not perfect. We're just human,
but our responsibility is to face the mistake
we make and apologize for it if we make it,
yeah. Sometimes you overstep and you find
out some other truth. Sometimes you
overstep and just are a fool, and
sometimes I was.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 When you look at mainland China now,
how do you see it?

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 Well, I think China definitely has
progressed a lot, you know, to be fair to them.
You know, they have lifted a lot of poor
people to middle class and all that, but I
think going forward, that's the greatest test
for China. Now they have the economic
problem, it it's gonna be really economic
implosion, that will create a lot of social
problems, because in China it's not like in
any other country.
 They don't have the intermediate
institution. They don't have the NGO, they
don't have the church, they don't have the
temple, they don't have the unions and all
that. You know, it's just the free market and
the government.
 So if the market fails, and the
government is dragged down
with it, what holding
society up? And also, in China you have a
vacuum of moral infrastructure. There's
no moral infrastructure in China. You know,
in chaos, when everybody is fighting for a
smaller pie, what happens? That would be
a dreadful scene, and that's something that
worries me about China, if the economy is
gonna do...is gonna go south.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 Where do you want to take your business
in the foreseeable future?

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 TV.

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 TV?

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 Yes, we are...

ANJALI RAO, TALKASIA
 I highly recommend it.

JIMMY LAI, MEDIA MOGUL
 Thank you. I'm sure. I don't know what
we're gonna do yet, honestly. You know, I just
think that, you know, the TV in Tainan, also
in Hong Kong, the most salient problem that
I can see is lack of creativity. It's very boring.
How can we make it not so boring? And that's
the challenge. I've no answer yet, but I
think that's the way we have to go.

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