Beijing did pay for the $20 million value of the carrier—but argued that it couldn’t cover other costs because he lacked receipts. Apparently, invoices—or fapiao in Mandarin—don’t come standard with bribes paid to Ukrainian businessmen. And, as one quickly learns in China, you always need the official fapiao.
So if there’s a moral to the story of the Varyag, it’s not to expect too much gratitude for your good deeds . . . and always keep the receipt.
Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
Image: Soviet carrier Varyag under tow in Istanbul. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy