too cool for school

China’s business elite have their own private social network called Zhenghe Island

July 25, 2013
July 25, 2013

Chinese billionaires—they’re just like the rest of us! At least sort of—their private Facebook-esque social network called Zhenghe Island costs about $5,000 a year and requires that members be the founder, CEO, or president of a company with annual turnover of no less than 50 million yuan ($8.1 million), as well as “a contributor to society.” Also, there is no Farmville.

Zhisland.com, as it’s known for short, was founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Liu Donghua, and already has more than 2000 heavyweight members from the elite business community, according to the South China Morning Post, including Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi, and real estate tycoon Wang Shi.

Along with a series of regular dinners, yacht trips, and golfing outings, Zhisland operates much like any other online social network, except that joining it involves a seven-step vetting process. And then there are the rules:

The Five Prohibitions

1. Communication without faith
2. Commerce without ethical bottom line
3. Personality without integrity
4. Charity without principle
5. Entertainment without morality

Six Rules of Conduct

1. Rational judgment and constructive expression
2. Keep one’s word and honor one’s commitments
3. Be tolerant of personalities and respect differences
4. No bothering or harassment
5. No spam and no soliciting
6. Refraining from disclosing information outside the Island

That last rule has proven to be a bit of a problem in recent weeks, leading to a dispute between Liu Chuanzhi, the founder of Lenovo, and fund manager Wang Ying. According to the SCMP, Liu told members at a Zhisland event that politics and business should be kept separate. When Zhisland adopted that stance as its official position, Wang left the island and later posted a public statement explaining her position.

Wang stopped short of encouraging the elite to speak out against the Communist Party, but given the strict control Beijing levies over social networks like Facebook (blocked) and Weibo (censored), it’s no surprise that Zhisland is treading carefully—especially when its wealthy members have so much to lose.

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