Clinton's love affair with China Inc is paying off
China has been doing its bit to keep former US president Bill Clinton comfortable in his retirement.
In the past three years, Mr Clinton has made at least six appearances in Hong Kong and the mainland, pocketing upwards of US$1 million in fees.
In addition to speaking engagements, which fetch as much as US$250,000 each, Mr Clinton has reportedly collected $400,000 for a three-hour appearance at a Sichuan rice-wine distillery and has been offered a $2 million sponsorship deal for a Wenzhou-based suit company.
'Businesses are willing to pay to take advantage of Clinton's fame, because they think his endorsement will get them media attention and their products will sell,' said Peking University's professor of journalism, Jiao Guobiao.
He said Mr Clinton's popularity also has a lot to do with scandal-peppered past. 'His presidential career and sex scandals make him very popular. The public like people who have led a colourful life.'
In May 2001, Mr Clinton was paid US$100,000 to speak at the Fortune Global Forum in Hong Kong. In May last year, he addressed the Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia investment forum in Shanghai for an undisclosed fee. On the same trip, he was paid $250,000 to make a speech urging help for the world's poor at a conference organised by CLSA in Hong Kong. A 30-minute speech on Sino-US relations in Shenzhen earned him $50,000.
Mr Clinton has been in China at least twice this year, addressing the BusinessWeek CEO forum in Hong Kong in June, and last month attending an HIV/Aids seminar at Tsinghua University - sponsored by Sichuan Jiannanchun Group, whose rice-wine distillery he later visited for the reported US$400,000 fee.
Given his popularity in China, few were surprised when reports surfaced in the mainland press that the former president would receive US$2 million - one of his biggest paydays yet - to speak at the International Health Festival in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.
The event was jointly hosted by the municipal government and the China Productivity Association.
It is still not clear if the story was an elaborate hoax or a clever public relations stunt. Event organisers now deny ever offering Mr Clinton the money to act as an international image ambassador and appear at the conference.
Not everyone is impressed with the attention - and money - being lavished on a former US leader.
An editorial in People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, criticised those hosting Mr Clinton as trying to cash in on his celebrity.