Even though I knew that the story of auctioning the looted Chinese animal bronze statues would not end when the hammer came down, I would not have expected such a twisted turn to follow.
Cai Mingchao, an adviser to the National Treasure Fund of China and the winning bidder of the two Chinese Bronzes from Yuan Ming Yuan, told a press conference in Beijing that he would not pay for the bids; and that he made the bogus offer to protest the sale of looted Chinese relics.
Christie’s has refused to make comments.
Speculations have spread around that Mr. Cai would face a huge financial loss because possibly a 10% of low estimate need to be provided to register as a bidder for high-end lots. Or he may face a lawsuit and possibly would be punished to make up the monetary difference if the lot eventually goes to the second highest bidder.
But Mr. Cai has been a respectful collector in the international market. In 2006 he spent HK$116.6 million for a Ming Dynasty Buddhist bronze at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong. Therefore his VIP status and reputation and past auction records may help him bypass certain registration rule. If so, the statues would probably return to Mr. Berge as unsold lots.
But Mr. Cai, you are wrong. Patriotism does not make the action legal. And you not only ruin your own reputation as a collector but also cast a dubious shadow on the face of every future Chinese collector in international markets. You successfully dwarfed the sale of two cultural relics, with a price that international auction houses and businessman would cast stringent rules or even shun Chinese buyers because of their unexpected intention.
You became a hero nationally, but in the western world, your behavior is irresponsible. Business transactions rely on established regulations and rules. Instead of seeking ways to improve the regulations and rules, you simply break it by saying We Chinese Act Based On Our Own Rules and Belief. That is as hot-headed as a red-guard in Cultural Revolution.
Chinese may need the glory of national hero like Mr. Cai. They feel the growing national pride by saying NO whenver they want to foreigners. But an established country wins the respect by collaboration, not by refutation.