1 GAO XIQING Vice Chairman, President, and Chief Investment Officer China Investment Corporation KEYNOTE ADDRESS TRANSCRIPT The Committee of nd Annual Conference Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Washington D.C., April 25, 2013 Lulu Wang Good afternoon. Hello. I'm Lulu Wang, a Committee of 100 member and Vice Chair of our New York region. I have the distinct pleasure today of welcoming Mr. Gao Xiqing. He is a very distinguished member of the Chinese leadership, and he is Vice Chairman, President, and Chief Investment Officer of the Chinese Investment Corporation. And this, as you all know, is China's sovereign wealth fund. Today he will speak to us and has kindly agreed to take some questions after his speech. Mr. Gao has, on many occasions, and most recently at the Boao Forum, spoken very insightfully and forcefully about the challenges that China faces in investing overseas, particularly in the United States. And he speaks forcefully because he realizes that between the world's two largest markets, the U.S. and China, it is essential that Washington and Beijing and actually all of us understand the complexities of these challenges and seek constructive solutions to fostering a healthy investment environment for both countries' economic interests. For this reason, we are so proud to be able to welcome Mr. Gao to join us today to share his very unique perspectives on this issue. We also particularly welcome Mr. Gao today because in some ways he is a member of our C 100 family. His lovely daughter-in-law, Wen Ting was a very talented intern at C-100 for a while, and she just recently delivered a beautiful baby granddaughter to him. And so our C-100 family continues to grow. So without further ado, may I welcome Mr. Gao. Gao Xiqing Thank you, Lulu, and thank you, everyone. I see a lot of friends here, and I feel very honored and fortunate to be here to talk to our Committee of 100 people because, you know, I came to this country in 1982, and the first thing that I learned of the Chinese community here was this Committee. So this Committee, to me, was always a very large presence here. Today I have the fortune of talking to our friends here and to, in a way, communicate with our American friends. In every trip I come to this country, I talk not only to the investment community but really to the government, because we, as a very large sovereign wealth fund, we can't escape from government regulations, from 1
2 challenges by various governments. And this government, of course, is by far the largest in the world, by far the most powerful, and by far the most righteous. But, you know, certainly all these things are very challenging for us as a sovereign wealth fund, especially as a sovereign wealth fund from China. For a time I thought after so many years of open door policy, China has become one of the ordinary members of the world community so that it will be regarded as just a, you know, an ordinary boy on the block. But somehow, very often it will be surprised by people, by various governments as being someone singled out, as someone who is challenged. We are. Today I'm asked to talk about our challenges in investment in this country and in the world. And very often I will have to talk about it, but this time I would like to add things that would be a little more relevant, because very recently we got challenged in one particular case, which I cannot talk about in detail, but I already told my counterparties in this country yesterday and today that I was going to talk. And they said, You can talk about it, and you can get passionate about it. Because they know I get very excited about it when we talk because, as everything else in this world, we're all challenged by the world, by the new uncertainties, by the change of dynamics. But sometimes, you know, when you get to a certain age like myself, you know, the surprises are no longer there. Life becomes boring. But, you know, all of the sudden you get people slap you in the face and telling you, Okay, we don't like you. And that, of course, hurts. You know, I can take a lot, so, we try to provide some humor about it, but still we all need to say it out. Lulu was asking me what we should do about the China-U.S. bilateral relationship and these things. I say, Well, keep talking. We just need to keep the dialogue. And we've been talking for the past 30-some years. Well, in fact, we started with the Warsaw talks in But at the time when we actually started communicating with each other, that has been for more than 70 years, and in fact, about 40 years. When I was still building a railroad in the mountains in China, we got these documents about the motives of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon to go to China and to talk to us. And at that time we started learning how we should deal with our American friends in those days, of course, our American enemies. And today, you know, the tables start to turn. And we thought we were friends, and now very often we were told that it's otherwise. The challenges are mostly two-fold. You know, one I would say, external for us, that's all challenges outside of China, outside of our own control, things that we can't control, things that we can't even blame ourselves for. And there are challenges, which I will call internal challenges that are the challenges that we have to blame ourselves for, and we have to worry about it ourselves, and we have to change ourselves to try to accommodate to the new world. Externally, it's mostly, again, two dimensions. One is what I would call the changing world. You know, after 2008 in fact, it started a little earlier than that, but really most tellingly after 2008 then you started seeing all the regulatory changes, the whole pendulum swing, goes to one extreme, really. I studied legal history for a long time, and I'm still very interested in it, and it's very interesting for me to see how the pendulum swings. When people ask me if this is going to be really bad, I say, no, it's going to go back again, maybe another 20 years. But, most investors don't care about such a long time, but we're the sovereign wealth fund. We are [because] by law, our performance is evaluated every ten years. So we don't have to worry about things that 2
3 most researchers in investment banks would tell us. They usually tell me six months from now, 12 months from now. If I ask what about three years, they say they don t look that far. You know, last year when I talked, I said, What about war breaking out? They say, Oh, that sort of thing we don't worry about. I ask why. They say, Well, you know, that's out of the norm, and we, as researchers, we get paid to talk about only the next six months. But for us, we can't do that. We don't get paid, but we worry about things much longer term. So for these paradigm shifts, you know, for all the new products, for the products that are already not there, we have to worry. Because when we first started in 2007, we thought we were going to be totally passive. We thought we were going to be just very boring, some institutional investor which would mostly invest in open market. We won't touch anything that's direct or private or interesting. But soon after we were established, there was the financial crisis. So when we look at the situation, we knew that we're never going to win anything if we stay in that boring field. So now our goal, really, is 50 percent public market, 50 percent alternative. That's a very funny field, but everything not in the open market would be alternative. In the first few years, our investment was mostly according to the relative composition of the capital market in the world. And this country's capital market takes up over 60-some percent of the world capital market. So we were, at the time, 70 percent investing in this country. But then that, of course, would have to change because of a lot of reasons, but mostly because what happened in this country, because of what's happened with the regulatory framework. That's the second part of the external challenge; that is, the change of mentality of all the regulators. That started out in this country, but then very soon it spills out to Europe and to many countries. And when we were asked by American regulators as to whether or not we are studying them or going to follow them, I said, Well, we did that a long time ago. You know, when they had all these new sort of regulatory requirements, I said, Our government had always been that way. They say, Since when? I say, Since about 3,000 years ago. We always control, and we always distrust the market, and we always think that the market is like a little boy and has to be disciplined. So now, for the regulators here to do it that way, of course it's a challenge for them. But for us it's a huge challenge because we can no longer do a lot of things that we thought we would do. And that sort of thing for a time, we thought it was what people would call on a level playing field. So we, as one of the investors in the world, even though we have a little more money than most other investors, we're still a passive investor. We thought we'd be treated the same as other people, or so we were told. But very soon we found out that's not the case. And, you know, as signified by this recent case, we're more or less told not in exact words, more or less told that we're singled out as a different investor. So if we want to invest in certain types of investment, then we'll be looked at differently than other investors. I personally really wasn't that surprised, because I'm always the cynic. So I look at it and I say, Okay. They always treated us that way. It's only that some of us think that now we're not different. But we are. We are. So when I talk to my regulatory friends in this country, and some people say, Well, we review over 10,000 cases every year, and we let go of all of them, almost all of them. Only about a hundred-ish cases will go through our process. It sounds like our government, You should look at the bigger picture. You should look at these 10,000 cases rather than these 100 cases. I said the first thing I learned in this country, in law school here, is that what is important is really not 3
4 what you do for the big majority, it's what you do for individual, what you do for the minority. When I first heard that in my criminal law class, I was really surprised, I said, Oh, it's true. I thought it was propaganda that our government said that the American government looks into the interest of the minority, the few rich people. And now finally I got revelation that [it] is. But of course, the rationale is that the essence of law is to protect these few people, because if you can't protect the few, then you can't protect the majority. Now, we're not exactly the few they aim to protect, so we got singled out. That's one of the things I'm very realistic about, but that's a thing that's not very conducive to the environment that we need to we'd like to foster. I know many people sitting here are for more dialogue [between] the two countries and for the promotion of trade and investment in the two countries. And because we know, between the two countries, we can probably solve I don't know percentages maybe 99 percent of all the problems in the world. And we do have a lot of things in common, and we do have a lot of interests to share. And we are very complimentary in many ways, and we do share a lot of things in common, even though we express these things in a different way. Therefore I would always like to keep the dialogue and say, Okay. Please tell me what's wrong with me so that I can improve. But then, in the past few days, what we're told is that, Look, it's very difficult for us to tell you what exactly is wrong. You figure [it] out yourself. That is not easy. Our government thought that they should send people like myself to study in this country and try to talk to people more so that [we] eventually understand the culture, you understand what people actually mean when they say A, they really mean B. And you figure out how to get there. But now, on the average level, the Chinese understand Americans much more than the other way around. And, on the average level, the Chinese who speak the language of this country and read the literature of this country, [understand] a lot more than otherwise. But still, we don't quite understand it. So I think we need more chances to talk to each other and more opportunities to try to understand each other. I know many of you guys sitting here have been working on it for your life, and it s not enough, we still have to do more. They call me the official complaint, and I'm done with that, and now I start to talk about our own problems. This is what I would call the internal challenges. As a sovereign wealth fund, and as a totally state-owned enterprise, and as a state-owned enterprise in China, which is very significant for many regulators in this country because I've been dealing with them and I know that eventually they deal with sovereign wealth funds in China differently from sovereign wealth funds in some other countries. But we know full well the inadequacies we have. As a state-owned enterprise, you already at a disadvantage simply because of the incentive systems, because of the way people are taught and the way people are chosen and, therefore, the way people are conditioned to think and conditioned to behave. And we've been fighting with that sort of challenge for the past six years, since our inception in late And we've been losing people year after year. On average, we lost about 27 the year before, 20-ish last year. But, if you look at overall numbers, you say, well, that's not a big number, because most large institutions lose people every day. But for us, we still think it's problematic because of the reason why people leave. People leave for all sorts of reasons, but for us, one of the most important 4
5 reasons to leave was, for most, for two reasons: One, compensation scheme; two this is the words of some of our people who left and said because half of our people, our professionals, are trained in the Western world, mostly in this country and many in Europe, Germany, France, Italy, the U.K., and some in Japan. And these are attorneys. And the complaint they have to me is, Look, I've been abroad for too long, and I've been used to working in a simpler environment. And I can't deal with politics here. And [I say] It's like, you never had any politics in the foreign institutions? They say, Oh yes, in every agency you'll have some politics. But this sort of politics I can't deal with. So, you know, over time I've become the psychiatrist in my company, and they all call me the Chief Shrink. Everyone who had a problem would always come in and talk to me, so that's why my daytime is mostly spent talking to people, taking complaints. And so I applied to move my office down to a lower floor, because I just want to avoid the urge of jumping out of the building one day. I told them the highest suicide rate in this country, for at least the time when I was here, was for the shrinks. But fortunately, so far I'm still working, I'm still optimistic. But the thing is, with the kind of system you have, you have to work with it. We all know. No system is perfect, but you have a system where you know what the problem is, but you find it very difficult to change. And it's frustrating. And that's a challenge, I'm sure, over time we're going to try to overcome. Personally, I've been working on that for all these years, either in my previous capacity in other government agencies or today. I'm still working on it. And this is one thing that's very peculiar to us, because I ask many of my friends in other sovereign wealth funds, even with our friends, our northern neighbor in Russia recently, I talked to their sovereign wealth fund. And I was very surprised by their answer, because they said, "Well, we're all market. I said, "How market are you? And they told me, and after they told me, I was really very impressed. They were very new compared to us, but they have everything totally marked on the market. So that sort of challenge we have to change. But that's only a phenomenon, really, and that's not the reason. The reason is much more, much deeper than that. It's the overall system, this is our system over the past few thousand years. The government always has much stronger urge to control and not only to control the economy, to control how things are done, but really to control how the personnel are chosen, how the people are thinking. That's a bigger challenge for us, and of course with the past 30 years of reform, we have changed a great deal. And just now we were talking about the flourishing of the internet, about this new phenomenon called the WeChat in China. Within six months the [number of] users has increased from zero to 350 million. And it's increasing that fast, and every day people talk about it. Very soon, I'm sure, it's going to surpass Facebook. One great significance is that information gets such a velocity and such a speed on the internet that nobody can really do anything about it. So with this sort of thing, you can think the whole new generation of people will come out very much used to the kind of free flow of information, rather than being conditioned in certain ways or being led in certain ways. So I think it's a great sign. And also this new crop of government leaders who have also been through the Cultural Revolution, been through other difficult times, and been through the whole reform process, and judging from all they've been saying over the past half year, we're all very optimistic that we're heading for a much better direction. 5
6 So in that way, I would really urge that our friends in this country look at China around that sort of light. Many of the investment professionals here probably read your research papers every day, and I read them every day, every night. And, you know, over the past few months it's mostly a very depressing picture of China. They say, Oh, the numbers are down by one basis point. So everyone gets so excited about China's problem. For me, and I'm constantly asked about the numbers, and I say I really don't worry about numbers at all because this is big economy and such a big ship that for this to turn around, it takes a long time. If you go to China, if you travel a lot in China like myself I travel a lot in the poor areas and in Tibet, in Xinjiang, in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia we go in all these far away provinces. You go to small towns and see how people are living, see what these people worry about and what these people are happy about. And then you see this whole trend, really, is going to a much better direction. I'll just give you two examples. One, I worked for the National Social Security fund for four and a half years before I became president of this company, so six years ago. And I was always worried about our overall Social Security system. I was always worried about the fact that [we have] a sort of two track system where all the agrarian population was not really taken care of enough and, therefore, these people are really discriminated against. But now it happened only very quickly, within the past two, three years all of a sudden, we have this whole new system in what we call xin nong he. It's called the new type agricultural, medical, cooperative medical insurance. And people have been advocating it for over ten years. Nothing was done for quite a while, but all of the sudden, the government realized that it really didn't take that much money to do it. The government had put in, for the past two or three years, 300 billion yuan. That's for China's economy a very small amount of money. 300 hundred billion yuan paid for everyone s medical insurance, everyone in the countryside in China So the purpose of my trip recently down to Gansu and Qinghai one of the purposes was to see whether these things are even real. So I went to the villages and talked to people there. And most of these people there are you no longer see young and strong laborers there. It's mostly grannies, grandpas there and their children all working on coastal lives, and they have their grandchildren with them. So I asked them what they worry about, and they gave me a lot of answers. No one mentioned medical. I said, What about medical? I was talking to this little granny, 72 years old. I said, Aren't you worried about it if you get sick? She smiled and said, No, we have the xin nong he. I said, Is it real? She said, Yes. Last month I got some problem and went to the clinic and the government paid 95 percent of it. I paid only ten yuan. So I was surprised. So I asked because accompanying me was the governor of that province the governor, I looked at him. He was almost embarrassed. He turned around and asked the granny, he said, Is it real? Did anyone tell you to tell him that? She said, Oh, no, nobody told me that. It's true. Ask everyone. So we went to the neighbor. We asked other people, and they all said it's true. So the governor really has made good on his promise, and all these people, they said, Okay, if we get sick, the bills would pick up first, and then we worry about the payment later. And the payment would always been over 90-some percent, depending on various things. So this is a very poor 6
7 area. This is one of the 512 poorest counties in the country, in Gansu province. And if their people do it that way, then in other places, it must be much better than that. The second example is when I travel to many of the poorer counties, many of the poorer towns, and everywhere you go I visit all these markets and food stores and all these places even in very faraway places, from Chengdu or from Shenyang, you see almost every kind of fruit you can find in Beijing. Many of the fruits, of course, were not produced there, and they're produced in Thailand or in the Philippines. And I would ask them, Why is this so far away from anywhere. Why would people buy these? They say, Oh, local people. I said, Local people eat these things? They say, Yes, of course. You don't know? You silly people, you think we local people don't deserve to eat these fruits? So, you know, this, to me, this is a major, major development of the country in terms of consumption. When people talk about China and say people save and they don't consume and you go to these places it's really coming up, everywhere in the country. You go to Shenyang is the smallest capital city of all provinces in China, and it's always regarded as a big village and a very poor area and now you go there, there's a whole street filled with stores selling outdoor equipment, outdoor equipment for people, for rich people, supposedly, going out and backpacking and having clothes and shoes which are totally expensive for daily use and walking sticks. And I asked those people, Who do you hope to sell these to? They say, Oh, people come here all the time. I ask, Can you make money? They say, Yes, we do make money. So, you know, if you go to those places, instead of going to all the glitzy super buildings in Beijing or Shanghai, and you know this change is actually happening. So I'm very optimistic about it, and I think it's it's definitely going to the right direction. But having said that, coming back to my challenge, which is really for us, it's not just the economic conditions, these basic economic numbers, but really the system itself still needs to be improved. And we are still expecting the government to do more in that regard, to change, to reverse the trend, the past few years' trend of major state enterprises becoming stronger and more monopolistic about things and the interest groups getting stronger and being stronger to influence our laws and regulations. That we have to address, and it looks like the government is addressing. So I hope probably within half a year to a year we'll see much more clearly where we're going. My confidence in that regard is quite high. That's all I have to say. Thank you very much. Lulu Wang Thank you very much, Mr. Gao. In the interest of time I know we're standing between you and your beef tenderloin lunch I think what we'll do is we'll ask just one question. And this question came in quite a bit earlier, and this relates to the BRICS, Russia, Brazil, India, and China. Gao Xiqing And South Africa. 7
8 Lulu Wang Yes, recently meeting to discuss a central financial institution to integrate financial systems of the BRICS nations. Would you share with us your thoughts on this? Gao Xiqing Well, this is a long-term subject, and I personally support its idea, that the BRICS countries get together and try to work out on certain things. But it's not easy, because the BRICS is a created concept. It's created by our friend in this country, great country of the United States, and by an investment banker. And these countries have nothing in common but for size. Individually we've been dealing with every one of the BRICS countries, and every one of them is great in certain ways. And every one of them, including ourselves, has shortcomings. So in many ways, they are complimentary. Because of that, I think it's good that we try to link up and try to do things together. And the problem is that these countries all have very different concerns in certain ways. So for the proposal that we set up a common sort of financial institution, namely someone called it the BRICS Bank, and they propose that China should contribute more to that bank than anyone else and all that sort of thing, I think it's not a matter of money itself. They even gave them numbers, $100 billion, China should contribute about 50 percent of that, then the Russians and Brazilians and India each would contribute a certain number. That's a great idea, but whether or not that can work, I don't really know. Because I've been observing all these international institutions for a long time, and very often these things don't work. At times when it does work, you have to find common ground somewhere. And I saw your poster up there saying common ground. You know, in Chinese actually we have a better translation. In Chinese it's qiutong cunyi. That we strive for consensus, but we realize our differences. And we do have a lot of differences [between] our countries. Recently CIC specifically has done a lot with the Russians, because the Russian government is very gung-ho about developing its infrastructure and its Far East and many things. And the two state leaders talked together, and their proposal is set up a fund called the Russia-China investment fund. Each [side] would contribute over a billion dollars, and then other institutions in these two countries would contribute some money into it. Initially, it's $3 billion, which is not a big amount for the size of the two countries, but it's a good start. And the Russian president and the Russian prime minister, both were very excited about it. But I think that it's much easier to deal with Carla would know this it's much easier to deal with one party. For every added party, the complication of the things would increase exponentially. So for five countries of that size, it's not very easy. 8
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