Six years ago Warren Buffett played the ukulele on CCTV during the Chinese New Year, endearing himself to hundreds of millions of viewers in China. With the Chinese New Year approaching again, the celebrity of the billionaire investor continues to grow.
Buffett, synonymous with some of the biggest stock bets on U.S. consumer brands, is a big brand himself in China. The 87-year-old chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, dubbed gǔshén ("god of stocks") in Mandarin, permeates consumer, cultural, philanthropic and media domains. Buffett's suits are even made in China, by Dalian Dayang Tands, bringing renown to founder Madam Li, who gladly publicizes the connection.
On Taobao, China's largest online marketplace, products with Buffett's likeness include mugs, mouse pads, phone cases, headphones, LED speaker lamps, pen holders, key rings, nail clippers, makeup mirrors, watches, shoulder bags and pillows.
Last year, when Coca-Cola introduced Cherry Coke to China, cans and bottles featured a cartoon headshot of Buffett. The cans state that Cherry Coke is Buffett's "zhìài zhíxuǎn," roughly meaning "true love of choice." Buffett is the company's largest shareholder, with a 9.3 percent stake.
"He's super popular here," said Jeffery Towson, author of The 1 Hour China Book, who teaches "Legends of Investing" at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management.
Some 3,000 Chinese descended on Omaha for last year's Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, which was also live-streamed and rebroadcast on a loop in China. The festivities are translated into only one foreign language: Mandarin.