Macau, China (AP) — Billionaire casino developer Steve Wynn criticized former Chinese leader Mao Zedong on Monday, telling more than a thousand investment advisers at a conference that the communist revolutionary’s „imbecilic“ Cultural Revolution „almost ruined“ the country.
The chief executive of Wynn Resorts, which operates a casino-resort in the Chinese special administrative region of Macau, spoke during a question-and-answer session at the Charles Schwab IMPACT 2007 conference.
Most questions were about the political and business climate in China.
„That imbecile Mao Zedong almost ruined that country,“ Wynn said.
Later, Wynn clarified his remarks, saying: „I said the Cultural Revolution almost ruined the country. It was imbecilic. I didn’t call him an imbecile, I said it was imbecilic.“
„I said that Deng Xiaoping was the father of modern China, and then I went into a long dissertation about how well I thought they managed their affairs.“
In most of his speech, Wynn praised the Chinese government for the country’s economic growth and its efficient bureaucracy. He spoke some Mandarin, a language he began learning after attempting to do business in the country several years ago.
While Wynn’s view of the violent 1966-76 Cultural Revolution is widely held, he acknowledged his comments could ruffle some Communist Party members in China.
Wynn said he wasn’t aware reporters were in the audience, but that wouldn’t have altered his presentation.
„The hard line Communists might not like it, but the facts are pretty clear the Cultural Revolution was pretty damaging to the country,“ he said afterward. „They haven’t turned their backs on communism, but the more repressive measures of the Cultural Revolution have been abandoned, and I think everybody in China thinks that was the right thing to do.“
In 2002, Wynn won one of the coveted licenses to develop casinos in the former monopoly gambling enclave, and he opened the USD 1.1 billion Wynn Macau in September 2006. The company later sold a sub-license for USD 900 million.
The company plans to add an upscale 400-room Wynn Diamond Suites, costing as much as USD 600 million, in 2010. It also said in August it was awaiting approval from the government of Macau to develop a separate 52-acre site.
During his talk, Wynn also waded into other controversial topics, saying that if the Dalai Lama were to visit China it might cause some unintended disorder, and he named terrorism as the biggest threat to global business.
„The biggest threat to commerce and every other institution in this world is the insanity of terrorism and fundamental jihadist Muslim lunacy,“ he said.
Wynn also addressed China’s relations with Taiwan, which broke away from the mainland after a civil war in 1949.
„Taiwan is like Maine, or Washington. It was theirs (China’s). And it got taken away. It’s like Hawaii. And they want it back. And most of the people in Taiwan want to go back.“
Taiwan’s elected president, Chen Shui-bian, has said he is against reunification with the mainland and has claimed China aims to take the island by force by 2015. China considers Taiwan to be a part of its territory.
Wynn said his comments about Taiwan were prompted by his conversations with businesspeople who operate in both jurisdictions.
„Taiwan will join China … on some terms yet to be defined,“ he told the conference. „There’s an amateur opinion from a casino operator.“