Chinese security agents visit, try to silence tweeting tycoon Guo Wengui
Guo Wengui 郭文贵, the exiled Chinese tycoon who has become a thorn in the Chinese government’s side with his constant tweeting about corruption at senior levels of the Party, is in the news again: The Wall Street Journal has published a gripping tale (paywall) about Chinese security agents sent to New York to repatriate Guo:
- The agents arrived on transit visas, and then, in violation of the terms of their visas, act on behalf of the Chinese government to offer leniency in exchange for Guo’s silence.
- At one point, FBI officers were planning to arrest the Chinese agents, but “U.S. officials couldn’t fashion a consensus” and worried about upsetting the Chinese government, so “the FBI agents were permitted only to confiscate the Chinese officials’ phones” before their plane took off.
- The article also says that Steve Wynn, a casino magnate with a huge investment in Macao and every interest in pleasing the Party, “hand-delivered” a letter from the Chinese government to Donald Trump requesting that Guo be deported. Trump was initially supportive, at one point telling his secretary, “We need to get this criminal out of the country.” It is not clear if Guo is still in the U.S. because one of Trump’s aides persuaded him that the tycoon is a useful bargaining chip, or because Guo is a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
- If you need a primer on the case of Guo Wengui, please listen to our Sinica Podcast interview with Mike Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson, two New York Times journalists who have spent days interviewing Guo and researching his claims.
Straight into the brains of babes
- The article says that China education minister Chen Baosheng 陈宝生, speaking on the sidelines of the 19th Party Congress, said that “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” will “go into textbooks, into classes, and into the brains” of students.
Ideological work outside the classroom also proceeds apace. As has become common during big political gatherings since Xi Jinping took over leadership of the government in 2012, the 19th Party Congress and President Xi himself have been the subjects of many slick pieces of propaganda. Three examples:
- YouTube: The first episode of the English version of CCTV’s documentary series Time of Xi.
- What’s on Weibo: A video about the 19th Party Congress and the government’s strategies for the new era, with rap music and “fun” animations, with a translated transcript.
- People’s Daily: A movie trailer-esque promotion of Xi Jinping’s “China Dream.”
The ‘Pen of the Party’ to get a promotion
Consensus seems to be forming in China-watching circles that Wang Huning 王沪宁 — one of China’s rising political stars, whom we included in our list of five people to watch at the 19th Party Congress — will be appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, the most powerful formal body in the Party state. Jude Blanchette, a scholar of Maoism and neo-Maoist movements and previous Sinica Podcast guest, has published an article on Wang. It’s well worth reading if you want to understand a person who will be one of the world’s most influential over the next five years:
- Unlike almost all senior Party leaders, Wang has no experience as a bureaucrat or provincial official. He was a political science scholar and law school dean at Shanghai’s Fudan University, but was called by then general secretary Jiang Zemin to Beijing, where he has become “the ‘pen’ of the Communist Party of China (CCP), the driving force behind the major ideological slogans of China’s top leaders, from Jiang Zemin’s ‘Three Represents’ to Hu Jintao’s theory of ‘Scientific Development,’ and most recently Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream.’”
- Along with economist and political commentator Wu Jiaxiang 吴稼祥, Wang was a leading proponent of neo-authoritarianism (新权威主义 xīn quánwēi zhǔyì).
- The neo-authoritarian argument, Blanchette explains, is that “economic modernization necessitated (or at least could coexist with) an iron-willed political system.” The best approach to dealing with the contradictions of economic modernization is where “an enlightened governing elite with reformist tendencies would oversee the development process in the belief that the ‘masses,’ if left to their own devices, would wreck the entire project.”
Since the Deng Xiaoping era, the Communist Party has been known for its technocratic leadership and famous for the numbers of engineers in senior positions. Wang spent the last 20 years at the Party Central Committee’s Policy Research Office researching policy and writing ideological texts — why is he in the running for a major appointment?
- The South China Morning Post says: “Sources familiar with the intraparty discussion said Wang’s possible ascension reflected the pressing need for Xi to have someone at the top to provide ideological backing for his ambitious reform programmes.”
- Also in the SCMP, Wang Xiangwei points out that in 2002, Wen Jiabao was named to the Politburo Standing Committee “despite having no experience of managing any province.”
As Lenin said, “without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.” In my view, Xi is no revolutionary, but he clearly sees the need for language to talk about his Chinese Dream that is coherent and theoretically rigorous. That’s where Wang comes in.
China events in your town
- The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is holding its annual Town Hall event on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. The keynote speaker in New York is Ambassador Susan E. Rice, former national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the UN, whose speech will be live-streamed on the internet and to 83 locations across the U.S., where it will be preceded or followed by a local speaker’s presentation.
- I’ll be the local speaker at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard, on the topic “China-U.S. Business: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” My Sinica Podcast co-host Kaiser Kuo will be a local speaker at Bridgewater State University on “China, the US, and the Internet: A Complicated Web.”
- If you’re in New York on January 17 next year, come to our Next China conference — our lineup of great speakers ranges from successful entrepreneurs like Roberta Lipson, CEO of the company behind the groundbreaking Beijing Family United chain of hospitals, to thought leaders like Elizabeth Economy of the Council on Foreign Relations and economist Yukon Huang.