You might not expect to see President Obama posed in advertisements across China, but a walk through the Shanxi province last week would have countered that belief. President Obama didn’t approve the advertisements, of course – but neither did Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

That didn’t stop Chinese real estate company “Ivy Garden”, who used all three men in advertisements until the company was fined and ordered to take the billboards last week.


The giant billboards, erected in the company’s Shanxi province headquarters in mid-July, featured Obama next to the quotation: “The value of our success has not changed”. The quotation is a slightly altered version of something Obama said in his inaugural address.

The billboards featuring other leaders were similarly constructed. The billboard with Buffett featured the quote: “This is the most important investment of my life”.

All the billboards were written in both English and Chinese.


Buffett, Gates, and Obama along with Chinese physicist and Nobel Prize winner Tsung-Dao Le were featured in the advertisements because of their Ivy League educations. All attended Harvard, though Gates dropped out sophomore year.

The name of the company, Ivy Gardens, appears to be a takeoff on the name for the association of elite schools.

The 10 meter wide and 4 meter tall billboards remained until August 4. At that time, the Trade and Industry Bureau of Shanxi Province noticed the ads and issued an administrative policy decision ordering the Ivy Garden company to discontinue the ads and take down the billboards.

They also levied a 50,000 yuan fine – more than $7,000 in US dollars.


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Rachel is a writer and tutor living in Virginia. She loves learning about other cultures and thinks we’re all a little wacky.