Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peter Buffett rocks Beijing

It is -- and this is putting it mildly -- sometimes difficult to generalize about a nation of 1.3 billion people. But let's go out on a limb and say there aren't many who would quibble with the description of China as money-obsessed. This is a nation in which arguably the most important phrase ever attributed to its transformational leader, Deng Xiaoping, was "to get rich is glorious." In China they call Warren Buffett the "god of stocks," and whenever he visits, the Chinese media cover his every move and utterance. There have been over 40 books about Warren Buffett translated into Chinese.

Which makes it very interesting that Peter Buffett, Warren's unassuming 53-year-old son, has recently become a rising star in China in his own right. And it's not because everyone thinks Warren's investment acumen has been handed down via DNA. Peter Buffett is a successful musician and a composer, writing scores for television and film (the Dances With Wolves soundtrack is one of his prominent credits) and performing his New Agey music in concert. He played most recently in August at Beijing Tanglewood, a gorgeous new outdoor concert space in the shadow of the Great Wall.

But Beijing isn't exactly Marin County. In today's China, New Age music will take you only so far. The reason Buffett has piqued the interest of a lot of Chinese -- students and young professionals in particular -- is that he has taken to dispensing life advice along with his music. And if part of his core message -- in essence, that money isn't everything -- seems rather counterintuitive in China these days, that's precisely the reason he has struck a chord. Warren Buffett's rock-star status tells us something about what China is today; Peter's success might tell us something about where it's going.


Book: Life Is What You Make It