A top Chinese university may have been duped by a man who received gifts and attended fundraisers by posing as a scion of the Rothschild banking family, a school official said.
Tsinghua University vice-president Yang Bin told reporters at a business forum that there were "oversights" in Tsinghua's screening processes after the Economic Observer newspaper reported that Oliver Rothschild, who has attended fundraising events for years, may not belong to the famous family.
Tsinghua's president gifted Rothschild with souvenirs and praised his interest in education during a recent visit, according to a university news release. A Tsinghua spokeswoman said Thursday she was aware of reports about Rothschild's identity but the university was still looking into the matter before making a formal statement.
Rothschild, who also took pictures with officials in the eastern city of Zibo, has not been accused of financial fraud.
The Rothschilds hold a particular place in the Chinese popular imagination. A book claiming to uncover the family's influence in European politics has been a bestseller, while wines from Chateau Lafite Rothschild are so favoured by Chinese nouveau riche that they are widely counterfeited.
As Chinese social media users mocked the university's leadership, the issue morphed into a broader debate about China's interactions with the West at a time when voices in China's government have called for fewer Western influences. Beijing's city government has even put forward a plan to ban foreign and exotic-sounding names for real estate developments.
A report in the official China News Service said the gaffe raised the issue of a Chinese university "blindly worshipping all things foreign," while the Global Times, a state-owned tabloid, played down Tsinghua's culpability in the matter.
Oliver Rothschild did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment. His extensive online resume, which described him as an "entrepreneur extraodiniare" (sic) before it was edited Thursday, listed him as head of a corporate advisory firm in London and a 1977 graduate of the University of Surrey, with a degree in hotel management.