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THE EXPERT: Assembling a list of China’s 100 wealthiest business people would have seemed an odd exercise not so long ago. But as the country’s economic might and entrepreneurial freedom have grown dramatically, Forbes Magazine has applied its expertise to China and will soon expand its list to highlight the 400 wealthiest in the country. UVM alumnus Russell Flannery, Class of 1981, is Forbes’s Shanghai bureau chief and heads the team that puts together the annual list of China’s well-to-do. Flannery recently returned to UVM for a guest lecture, where he spoke in the Billings Student Center, the same he place pulled all-nighters during his days as editor of The Cynic.

THE QUESTION: Generally speaking, are China’s wealthiest proud or reticent to have their riches made public?

THE ANSWER: “It's a mixed bag,” says Flannery, who points out that this era makes for strange bedfellows in China, where newsstands display glossy magazines dense with ads for luxury items side-by-side with copies of The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party. “Chinese entrepreneurs are increasingly listing their businesses on the Nasdaq and other overseas stock exchanges and seeking international partners. To the extent that public exposure helps them build up their business, they tend to welcome it. In addition, in most cases, the cities and towns in China where such companies invest welcome their success, just as most American communities welcome responsible companies and are proud of their success. On the other hand, there are a lot of elements of Chinese life and society that lead people with wealth not to flaunt it. It is, after all, still on the whole a developing country with one of the world’s worst distributions of income.”