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A Chinese billionaire sent 6,400 of his employees on a French vacation

Employees of the TIENS Group, a Chinese company, attend a parade organized by CEO Li Jinyuan as part of a four-day celebration weekend for the 20th anniversary of his company, on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice, southeastern France, Friday, May 8, 2015. Li Jinyuan is sending off half his team about 6,400 employees on a two-day trip to Paris and two-day trip in Nice, France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
AP/Lionel Cironneau
Tiens Group employees parade down a street in Nice.
By Zach Wener-Fligner
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The Chinese conglomerate Tiens Group treated 6,400 of the company’s employees to a four-day trip to France last week in a move that appears to be part benevolence, part publicity stunt.

The massive tour group, which Reuters reported is expected to spend €13 million ($15 million) total, filled 84 planes to Paris where they packed into 4,000 rooms across 140 hotels and took over the Louvre for a visit. They then ventured southwards to the French Riviera, where the group paraded down the street in blue and white color-coordinated outfits, spelling out the phrase, “Tiens’ Dream is Nice in the Côte d’Azure.”

Tiens Group sells mostly health and household products to consumers in 190 countries, the company told the New York Times. The company has made its founder, Li Jinyuan, exceedingly wealthy: He was worth $5.8 billion in 2013, according to the Hurun List.

But Tiens products have been accused of being exploitative and ineffective. An unnamed employee told the New York Times that the products are sold by sales representatives who are paid on commission, but earn no base salary. As such, a Chinese blogger named Tao Duanfang pointed out (link in Chinese) that the free vacation looked suspiciously like a ploy to attract more sales reps.

“The tactics of direct sales companies are no secret,” Tao wrote. “Above all, they want to create a footprint, because without a footprint they have no endlessly growing source of employees.” Quartz has reached out to Tiens Group for comment and will update this post if the company responds.

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