Senior military leader under investigation commits suicide


At around noon today Beijing time, Xinhua News Agency published a brief announcement (in Chinese) saying that a prominent general, Zhang Yang 张阳 — former head of the political work department of the Central Military Commission (CMC) — had committed suicide at his home in Beijing on November 23.

  • Zhang has been under investigation for corruption. State media linked his case to disgraced military leaders Guo Boxiong 郭伯雄 and Xu Caihou 徐才厚, who were two of the most powerful targets of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.
  • The Xinhua announcement about Zhang’s death was followed swiftly by reports in state media, such as this article (in Chinese) from the website of the Communist Youth League titled: “Zhang Yang commits suicide to escape punishment: a shameful way to to end a life!” Later reports also mentioned that Zhang had hanged himself.
  • The South China Morning Post has a good summary of Zhang’s demise.
  • John Garnaut, one of the more prominent reporters on Chinese elite politics, tweeted a link to a 2013 story he did about Chinese military officials — including Zhang — seeking influence in Australia and noted: “Look back at how the four top generals mentioned in this 2013 ‘influence’ story have fared: the one who served under Xi Jinping in Fujian is doing great. Of the others: one is in jail, the second died in jail and the third just killed himself.”

The toilet revolution

China’s public toilets have long been notorious for their unhygienic conditions. President Xi Jinping has decided that this needs to change, and is calling (in Chinese) for a “toilet revolution” (厕所革命 cèsuǒ gémìng).

  • Xinhua says China’s top leader has “personally spoken out on this seemingly petty issue” because it affects rural development and tourism, and offers the opportunity for innovative sanitary products to be designed in China.
  • The idea of a “toilet revolution” was first used in state media in 2015.

China has worried about its toilets for at least a decade:

  • In 2006, Chinese internet users were outraged when a Taiwanese model who had built a career as a TV presenter in the mainland criticized Chinese public toilets for their dirty conditions and lack of doors.
  • Before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the city announced plans to construct “64 four-star, 197 three-star and 118 one-star toilets at all its major tourist attractions.”
  • In 2008, the People’s Daily also noted plans for an “electronic guidance system for public lavatories.”
  • In 2012, Beijing city authorities issued a set of guidelines for public toilets that stipulated that each toilet should contain no more than two flies.
  • When the “toilet revolution” first launched in 2015, a model public toilet equipped with a TV as well as vending and ATM machines was displayed in Beijing.
  • In 2016, Beijing authorities said they would build 100 toilets with free Wi-Fi access.

A job posting in Washington

The Voice of America has a job opening for a China Branch Chief based in Washington, D.C. Responsibilities include managing a multimedia newsroom of about 100 journalists producing Mandarin and Cantonese content. The application deadline is midnight Eastern Time on November 29, 2017. For more information and to apply, please click here if you are a U.S. citizen, and here if you are a foreign national.