CAIXINMEDIA

A Chinese Woman's Takedown Of Wendi Deng Murdoch

For this Chinese writer, Rupert Murdoch's ex-wife is a symbol of all that's wrong with the power women of the new century.

"Divorcee of the year" Wendi Deng
"Divorcee of the year" Wendi Deng
Hu Ziwei*

-Essay-

BEIJING — In its end-of-2013 review, British daily The Guardian awarded the “Divorce of the Year” prize to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and his ex-wife Wendi Deng. Ah, but of course. For it is not just this year but throughout our new millennium that Madame Deng has commanded our attention.

Fourteen years ago, Murdoch divorced from his second wife, Anna. Just 17 days later he married Deng, a Chinese woman 38 years his junior whom he met after she rose from an intern position at Murdoch's media conglomerate News Corp. Everyone was taken by surprise. This tall and glamorous woman, hanging on the arm of the most powerful media mogul on the planet, appeared to the world as both alluring and puffed up with pride.

For the next decade, dazzling reports about this power couple produced a steady supply of headlines. First it was about the use of Murdoch’s frozen sperm, supposedly hidden from his second wife, that helped Deng become the mother of two Murdoch heirs. Deng would then become the chief strategy officer of News Corp’s website MySpace. (She famously blocked a “pie-throwing expand=1] attack” while her husband was at his lowest moment in recent years during a British Parliament investigation into his newspapers’ phone-hacking scandal.)

Still the couple’s two daughters did not obtain voting control over the family’s trust holding, as Deng had wished. By mid-2013, in fact, Rupert Murdoch filed for divorce, and the couple ended their marriage by year’s end in a New York court.

Spoils and youth

No outsider is going to know exactly what happened behind the scenes over the past 14 years. What we see, though, is the relaxed and happy face of the media tycoon, while Deng, once seen as so vibrant and cheerful, wears the sullen expression of the loser in the whole affair.

Wendi Deng and Ruper Murdoch in April 2012 — Photo: Ki Price/ZUMA

Most gossip involving Deng is about her spoils from the divorce, even as some snipe that what she’s lost in exchange is her youth. After all her earthshaking efforts to have a stake in the empire, all she has gained are two expensive properties.

Still, there are others who applaud Deng and praise her talent for knowing well how to maximize the utility of it, characterizing her with words like "assertive", "successful" and "glamorous'.

I have never met Wendi Deng. But I have met other tough women, ones who fly under a black cloud and attack by surprise in a dense mass. They set a goal, build the model, then advance like a bulldozer, exerting irresistible force over the lives and souls of others.

Two categories

These women are the major thoroughfares of the world, not the quiet labyrinths. Their lives are an ode, majestic but impossible to calibrate to something softer. Their capacity for awareness is particularly strong, a kind of “sixth sense” to assess those around them. In their eyes, everybody is divided into two categories — useful or useless.

If you are the latter, your fate is simply to be ignored by her, but if she sees some utility, you are destined to be selected like a puzzle piece and assembled as one of the bricks and tiles of her life.

I often sigh to myself: Why is it that the more successful a man, the more popular he is, yet a woman’s success often has the opposite effect? I believe that is part because of the design of institutions and the weight of social prejudice. But it’s also related to our own limitations: Women tend to be fixed on pre-determined objectives, unable to extricate themselves along the way.

The degree of a person’s success often also reflects their absurdity. That’s because even a glamorous lifestyle will not withstand questioning. I have a luxurious mansion right next to the Forbidden City, and my upper East side New York apartment is worth more than $44 million. So what? I have become the world’s leading socialite with Tony Blair and Hugh Jackman as friends. So what? I had the chance to control the world’s largest media empire. So what?

Everybody, we can never forget, ultimately becomes but a handful of new soil.

So what does a lack of sensitivity do to a woman? Just look at Wendi Deng. It's nothing that cosmetic surgery can help. Vanity is ultimately the worst enemy of any woman. The contradiction of beauty and purpose are often thought to live side-by-side in so-called “successful women.” For some, facing the choice of being a nice person or a strong person, the latter seems more economicially viable.

So what will you choose to be — a nice person or a tough one? I’m fed up with talk of success. I dare you and everyone else to be someone nice.

* Hu Ziwei is a TV host and columnist for Caixin.

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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