Why is China’s elite going down a perilous road

Rui Chenggang made a strong impression on me. He was a young Chinese TV presenter, his tailoring was as impeccable as his English. We met in Davos in 2014, at a Press Conference With Shinzo Abe. Roy asked the then Japanese prime minister a tough question – while also noting that when he was in Tokyo, he used the same gym as Abe. In short, he was very happy with himself.

We chatted after the press conference and Roy told me I should look for him, next time I was in Beijing. I never had a chance Arrested due to alleged corruption that summer and was never seen in public again. The following year in Davos, I asked one of his fellow Chinese about Roy’s fate. She pulled her face and ran to the other side of the room.

Rui Qinggang’s story serves as a personal reminder to me of how quickly the rich and powerful fall from grace in China. The most famous example is the tennis player Bing Shuai. Ping disappeared for several weeks after accusing him of sexually assaulting a prominent Chinese leader, before reappearing in a series of stage photos and video appearances. Its future remains uncertain.

In China, the rich, famous, and powerful are exposed to shame, disappearance, or worse. This phenomenon was highlighted by the title Article – Commodity In Forbes in 2011: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Become Chinese Billionaires.”

The article, citing statistics from the Chinese press, noted that 72 billionaires in the country have died prematurely in the past eight years. the original Plot The China Daily, published by the Communist Party, gave the details: “Of the 72 billionaires, 15 were killed, 17 committed suicide, seven died from accidents, 14 were executed according to the law, and 19 died of diseases.”

Anyone who thinks that things have become less precarious for the rich and powerful in China in the intervening decade, better read Desmond Shum’s recently published book, red roulette. more And his wife, Whitney Doan, rose out of poverty to become a billionaire real estate developer. They’ve driven a Rolls-Royce around Beijing and traveled the world in private jets. The couple didn’t think to spend $100,000 on wine for one meal in Paris. Whitney thrived thanks to her connections to China’s political elite – until she was arrested in 2017 and disappeared.

as red roulette He shows that this kind of sudden fall from grace is not uncommon. Shum and Duan’s redevelopment of Beijing airport ran into trouble when one of the main contacts, Li Peiying, who was the airport’s general manager, disappeared without explanation. He was later charged with corruption and executed.

One of the main political contacts, which Duan developed, was Sun Zhengcai, a rapidly rising official who is likely to be a potential successor to President Xi Jinping. Sun was expelled from the Communist Party and sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption in 2018. Shum argues that Sun was in fact the victim of a “successful political career”.

Duane’s connections to Basan may also have led to her arrest. Or perhaps she was very close to the wife of former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, whose family became amazingly wealthy. Despite being the second most powerful man in China, Wen now cut short to communicating via code. a Diary About his mother, which he published in an obscure newspaper this year, was read as a veiled criticism of Xi and was quickly deleted from the Internet.

Some believe that Peng Shuai may also have a connection in the code. One of the photos released to prove she’s still alive showed her standing next to a picture of Winnie the Pooh. Something that is often sarcastic comparison With the fat bear.

International fame offers no protection from arbitrary power. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and the most famous entrepreneur in China, dared to criticize Chinese regulators in October 2020. I have seen In public since then. Meng Hongwei He was China’s first-ever head of Interpol, but was arrested on a trip home in 2018 on corruption charges and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.

Sympathy for billionaires or party officials, brought down by the regime that once raised them, may be limited. But the Chinese state authorities are using more and more fiercely against dissenting lawyers, journalists and academics. As a recent Human Rights Watch report makes clear, authorities often prosecute families of dissidents.

The nature of the Chinese system means that turning away from politics is not protection. The business world is opaque and works on connections, so everyone works in what Shum calls the “grey area”, and is therefore vulnerable to the corruption charge. All institutions are under the control of the Communist Party. A smart lawyer or a hardworking journalist will not help you if you get caught. Courts have Conviction rate 99.9 percent.

At the head of the system sits President Xi, the leader who defended not only Mao Zedong but also Lenin and Stalin. It was the head of Stalin’s secret police, Lavrentiy Beria, who once demonstrated the absolute weakness of any individual in a police state, when he said: “Show me the man, and I will find the crime.”

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