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A fabricated interview is not a smart idea

When I started my entrepreneurial career after leaving Daimler China in 2002 I among others had a consulting company that advised foreign companies on doing business in China. One of our competitors was Dezan Shira and I admired the company for the way they seemed to be growing and for the political connections that its founder Chris Devonshire-Ellis seemed to have. I never met him, but at that time he was for me the personification of a successful foreign entrepreneur in China.

Because I moved my business activities from consulting to new media I did not follow Dezan Shira much, but occasionally I picked up their China Briefing magazine in a bar. Each time I saw it I had to laugh a bit, seeing Chris in it on many pictures with high-level China politicians or shaking hands with new clients. A bit too much to my liking, but of course you have to build a brand and showing off your connections and clients is a good way to attract customers. People criticized him for that, but I know from personal experience that everybody who steps into the spotlight will get negative comments. You just have to live with it and move on.

But this morning I read an article on ChinaLawBlog on Chris that changed my perception of him quite a bit. What happened? Chris did an interview with the Chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and put it on the China Briefing site. In the interview Mr. Liu Mingkang among others talks about the RMB exchange rate, saying that it may weaken against the USD to around RMB 6.9-7.0. Because of this news the RMB/USD moved. Great for Chris to get such a scoop, except for the fact that the article seems to be completely fabricated! This is what the website of the China Banking Regulatory Commission showed this morning:

The CBRC Statement

For me it was hard to believe at first that someone would do that, until I followed some links to among others several articles on FOARP about Chris. That blog claims among others that Chris lied about his qualifications and that he threatens bloggers such as Wang Jian Shuo with law suits if he does not remove negative comments about him. A tweet by Humanaught about the fact that Dezan Shira’s wikipedia page was removed because of ‘blatant advertising’ got a follow up by Chris threatening Humanaught. By the way, also Chris’ own Wikipedia page was removed because the article “does not indicate the importance or significance of the subject“. There is a whole discussion about him on Twitter now, he even has his own hash tag #cde (go to and search for #cde to read the tweets).

Does Chris not realize that it’s better to sit out the storm instead of immediately overreacting? If you Google him now there are a lot of negative results about him that he could have easily avoided. The fake interview will probably make this even worse, which is neither good for him nor for his company and all the staff that he employs. If I were him I would just sit still for a while, assuming he does not get into legal or government trouble because of the fabricated quotes. I assume he learned a lesson, but if his lawyers start calling me after this blog post I will know that is not the case.

Update (Feb. 23, 2009): Chris Devonshire-Ellis resigned all his positions today.


  1. Just another case of a seemingly “succcessful entrepreneur in China” being bogus, and full of it in the end. Not exactly the first, nor the last case; there’s tons.

  2. How can you write down something like that about a guy you dont know? Pffff….. because you read in the internet and read a lot in the web2.0 bullshit world? Funny!

  3. How can you write down something like that about a guy you never met personaly? Because you share the opinions of some twitters or you feel that everything is clear?

    But it is a good starter for me. I am reading a lot about you. Aren

  4. @anonymous 1 + 2: I assume you are the same person as your first sentence is almost the same. I never met CDE (except once on a plane to Macau that was delayed a lot and when he was complaining loudly about that), but why should that mean that I cannot write about him? It does not happen every day that a well-known foreign businessman fakes an interview with a top government official and that this leads to a special notice on a government website. To me that is news and not just a rumor. I received several emails from people who know CDE personally over the past 24 hours with very juicy information that I will not post here, because those are not things that I can objectively verify.

    I still think CDE did a great job in building up Dezan Shira. Everybody makes mistakes, some a bit more grave than others, and it’s all about how you handle them. I hope for him that he does not get persecuted and that he does not make things bigger for himself.

    About your other comments (@anonymouse 2), I believe that sharing my experiences on the Internet brings me a lot, both in terms of business and privately. Certainly now with Twitt where I am having some great conversations. The world has changed over the past years and I believe it will change a lot more. Maybe for your generation (I assume you are older than me) it is not common to live a more public life, but for many younger people this is the norm. Why try to be mysterious like you? You think I am losing power because of this? Give me a break, being open is what gives me power. On the web it is what you give is what you get, if you hide you miss out on a lot of interesting opportunities.

    I am very happy with my life as you can see from my blog and feel no need to change it. Not reading emails before lunch? Would drive me nuts, and it would interfere with my business. I actually feel more relaxed when I know what’s going on, I guess that’s called feeling responsible for a business.

    I guess we are different and that’s fine. No worries, I am not the person that calls somebody a ‘stupid crazy guy’ because of that, I respect people’s opinions and certainly think about what commenters write. Feel free to get in touch privately if you would like, my email is on this blog.

  5. Unfortunately, I’m not able to read his article interview since it’s been removed everywhere.

    I have to wonder if it’s not a fabrication but a late-night-bai-jiu-dinner conversation that was off the record.

    Could that be possible from his interview article (now long gone)?

  6. @Steven It seems highly unlikely to me, it was a formal interview that went quite deep into several topics. After what I have been reading about CDE over the past 48 I think it’s even more unlikely.

    Some readers of this blog sent me confidential mails suggesting among others that CDE did not even know the ministers he regularly interviews personally. Don’t know what to believe, but it all smells a bit fishy to me. Especially because all these interviews, called Ministerial Meetings, have now suddenly disappeared from the China Briefing site (I still have a copy of some of them).

  7. If you follow the link to my name you can see the almost original republished “interview” on “The Truth About Chris Devonshire Ellis”.com

    We are in pursuit of the “missing part”, updates will follow on the site

  8. Wisdom has it the interview did take place and the Chairman of the CBRC forgot to mention it was off the record. Chris duly published it then the market moved by billions. The central bank had little choice than to deny the interview occurred to prevent further damage. That’s rather tough on Chris who was only doing his job.
    However, he’s still in Beijing as far as I can see and China Briefing is as strong as ever.
    If Chris really had fabricated an interview with a senior Chinese Minister and caused that damage he have been deported. The fact he wasn’t and is still running his business I think supports the fact the interview had taken place. But no doubt both parties want to forget about it and move on. Chris has got balls you have to have to survive that and prosper. The blogs that roasted him – well what do you expect?

  9. I remember that he was kicked out of China and that he stepped down in his role at his company. He eventually showed up in India (after trying to get a sailing license or something in Thailand if I remember correctly), with a fancy title for China Briefing. At that point I stopped following what he was doing. So much dirt about him was uncovered in the blogosphere after this scandal (whether true or not) that I decided to stay as far away from him as possible. If he is back in China again that’s good for him.

  10. Chris Devonshire-Ellis here. I’d like to correct a few erroneous statements made by Marc here – who never contacted me to get the real picture.
    1) The interview was not ‘fabricated’. The MoF never refuted it took place, they DID say there was “no official interview”. That is not the same thing. They covered up a major mistake made in a comment concerning the USD-RMB position
    during a group session of businessmen from Hong Kong. So it wasn’t an “official” interview. But the comment was made, and I reported it as said.
    2) I was never ‘kicked out’ of China. I have been both living and working in China since 1987 and continue to travel there on a regular basis.
    3) Neither my firm nor myself have ever had a Wikipedia page.
    4) I am now based in Singapore and am responsible for India and Singapore.

    Perhaps next time you decide to run pieces or commentary as factual you check your ‘facts’ from the source. It would be appreciated, and more honest.
    Thank you – Chris

  11. Chris, I don’t want to waste more time on this, so I am going to post your remarks as the final comment to this post and let my readers decide whether they believe you or not. A good starting point for them would be to check in Wikipedia whether there really has never been a page about you, and whether you moved to Canada or are based in Singapore (your personal blog would be the most credible source for this information I assume). I have had enough of the online interactions with you over the past couple of months and wish you all the best in your future life.

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