Top Chinese Officials Defy Rules and Secretly Consult Fortune Tellers

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Chinese Officials Defy Government and Secretly Consult Fortune Tellers

Master Liu's clients are regular folks and companies, but he tends to stay away from high-ranking officials because he thinks the risk of getting in trouble is too high.

But others find advising communist government officials to a lucrative business, with certain precautions.

One of China's most famous fengshui masters, Zheng Jianwei, selects his clients from among high-ranking officials and CEOs of state-owned enterprises. The Ministry of Finance invites him to lecture CEOs every year. When ABC reached out to Dr. Zheng, he was speaking to an MBA course for CEOs of state owned enterprises in Shenzhen, a southern city near Hong Kong.

"When doing business with Chinese, if you don't understand about fengshui or have a fengshui consultant, you are lost from the get-go," Dr. Zheng, as he is known, told ABC News.

He advises officials on matters ranging from the arrangement of office furniture, architecture, employees' birthdays, and warns that the date and location of business negotiations, even seating arrangement can make or break a business deal.

"The most common issues officials like to consult about are job promotion, marriage and health. They still tend to be very discreet about consulting fengshui masters," Zheng said.

While Dr. Zheng may be open about his services, many of his clients are not. Rising bureaucrats like to hire a fengshui master as political consultant, but are frequently covert about it.

To avoid notice, officials often use business contacts to introduce them to fengshui masters and pay for the pricy consultation. This provides useful opportunities for business people to carry favor with influential bureaucrats.

The advice from big fengshui masters doesn't come cheap. For Dr. Zheng, the fee for state-own companies starts at one million RMB, about $163,000. For officials, Zheng says, the price will be "decided by fate."

The booming fengshui business in mainland China has begun to attract masters from Hong Kong. Mak Ling-ling, a 46-year-old Hong Kong fengshui consultant has been expanding her business into mainland China for the past decade. Master Mak charges $13,000 to $30,000 for an hour-long speech on how to make auspicious real estate investments. Mac is introduced to a steady stream of Chinese government officials seeking her guidance.

"Officials biggest concerns are their political futures, especially when there is a decision to make," says Mak. "When someone is trying to make friends with them, or they have to choose a subordinate to promote, they consult me about whether a person will help or hurt her political career."

It is hard to estimate just how many Chinese officials believe in fengshui. According to a survey by the Chinese Academy of Governance in 2007, 52 percent of the nation's county-level civil servants admitted to believing in divination, face reading and astrology or dream interpretation.

"My business is like a doctor's during the flu season," Dr. Zheng says. "During leadership transitions and political campaigns, a lot more government officials come to see me. And if the economy booms or busts, more corporate CEOs will visit me."

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