Young Chinese Bitcoin entrepreneur 'didn't spend that much' to win chance to dine with Buffett

By Qu Qiuyan Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/13 18:58:40

Sun Yuchen, who sparked a heated debate in Chinese social media after bidding a record $4.57 million to have lunch with Warren Buffett Photo: Courtesy of Sun Yuchen

The young Chinese Bitcoin entrepreneur Justin Sun, or Sun Yuchen, may have been dubbed a "cryptocurrency pioneer" by Western media after bidding a record $4.57 million to have lunch with Warren Buffett, but his counterparts on Chinese social media have not shown quite the same enthusiasm for him.

Sun first released the news on his Twitter account on June 3, quickly attracting Western media's attention. Most of the reports focused on the determination of a "cryptocurrency pioneer" to sway Buffett on Bitcoin and Blockchain. 

The legendary US investor had once described Bitcoin as "rat poison squared."

One day later, Sun announced the news again on China's Sina Weibo, which soon started trending and triggered a skeptical response from Chinese netizens, many of whom saw his bid as an attempt to create hype.

Sun rejected this accusation in a phone interview with Global Times. The voice of the post-1990 young man sounds mature and socially experienced.

"I did not mean to create hype," Sun told the Global Times, claiming that he never expected his bid for lunch with Buffett to lead to such widespread discussion in China. The lunch will take place on July 25 in San Francisco. 

"Buffett's understanding of Bitcoin is stuck in 2009. Now it's 2019," said Sun. "My initial objective is to convince Buffett on the Bitcoin and blockchain industry instead of creating hype." 

Out of obscurity

Before Sun's announcement, few people knew his name or his company TRON, a blockchain platform based in San Francisco.

"I officially announce that I have won the record-breaking 20th-anniversary charity lunch hosted by Warren Buffett with a record bid of $4.57 million," wrote Sun on his Weibo account, with a photoshopped illustration of the bid placed right under the text of his post. 

Sun's post soon attracted the attention of millions of Chinese netizens within one day, with many expressing surprise at the 28-year-old man's ability to win the bid. However, online voices quickly turned into doubt and even abuse on the Chinese social media network. 

Social media users called him the "Jia Yueting of Bitcoin," a reference to the founder of the debt-laden technology company LeEco.

"There is a big difference between me and Jia…Jia is very active in China's capital market, while I have never been present in the domestic capital market. I don't even own Chinese shares. So I don't think there is a comparison between us and I have no idea why netizens made the comparison," Sun told Global Times in a tone of disbelief. 

"I think the reason that netizens think we are similar might be that we are both good at telling stories," Sun added. 

Founded in July 2017, Sun's blockchain company TRON is reportedly dedicated to building the infrastructure for a decentralized internet. 

When replying to doubts from netizens that a 28-year-old young man was able to pay such a high price for lunch with a US investor, Sun told the Global Times that the money came from company profits. 

"My company made tens of millions in profits, so it is not that much for me to pay for the lunch," said Sun. 

He didn't reveal the specific number of his company's profits. 

War of words

Several days after the bid of the lunch with Buffett went viral on China's social media, Sun again caught the public eye due to his war of words with Wang Sicong, a Chinese businessman and the only son of business tycoon Wang Jianlin. 

The billionaire heir is famous for his ability to generate online buzz from his Weibo posts and comments. 

The clash between the two young businessmen started with Sun's Weibo post on June 8, in which he posted a screenshot of Wang's WeChat moments in which he calls Sun a "silly" man.

Sun also claimed that while he was self-made, Wang is merely a "daddy's boy."

It was not the first time that Sun has engaged in a verbal battle with an online celebrity. 

Before his name appeared with Wang Sicong on the Weibo hot trends, Sun was also criticized by Wang Xiaochuan, CEO of China's No.2 search engine Sogou, who called Sun a "swindler."

Sun also challenged the Sogou CEO on Weibo and made a three-year bet on the two companies' development. 

"I'm confident of winning (the bet). I'm confident not only because I have the ability, but also because I think the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry is promising. I think I'm representing the emerging blockchain industry and Wang represents the traditional internet industry," Sun told the Global Times in the phone interview. 

Sun's company's market value is 14 billion yuan ($2.03 billion) while Wang's company's is around 11 billion yuan ($1.59 billion), according to Sun.

Sun's frequent engagement in arguments with key opinion leaders (KOL) also strengthened netizen's negative impression of him, with many users commenting in his Weibo account that he was trying to get on the hot trend again by taking advantage of other KOLs' popularity.

Pioneering attitude

In contrast to the domestic controversy over the young blockchain entrepreneur, Western media have chosen to ignore the divided voices about Sun, focusing on why he wanted to bid for lunch with Buffett and his determination to change the investor's view on Bitcoin and blockchain. 

Most Western media, including the Associated Press and Reuters, have dubbed him the Chinese "cryptocurrency pioneer." 

"The future of cryptocurrency is promising," said Sun in a CNBC report. 

"I'm delighted with the fact that Justin has won the lunch and am looking forward to meeting him and his friends," Buffett said in a statement provided by his assistant, Reuters reported.
Newspaper headline: Million dollar lunch

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