Xiang Junbo 项俊波 was a PLA soldier who fought with Vietnamese forces in a border war in 1979 and went on to become a television writer and producer as well as a banker and financial regulator. He became chairman of the Agricultural Bank of China in 2009 before heading up the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC). During his TV years, he wrote what Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao calls (in Chinese) the country’s “first television series about auditing work,” the popular 1986 show The People Will Not Forget (人民不会忘记 rénmín bù huì wàngjì).
- In April last year, the anti-corruption task force Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said that Xiang was being investigated for “severe violations of discipline.” The wags who write the headlines at Sina.com pointed out the irony (in Chinese) that just as the new anti-corruption TV drama In the Name of the People was becoming a hit, Xiang earned a starring role in his own “reality TV version.”
- Today, Xiang pleaded guilty to bribery charges. According to Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese), he admitted to accepting money and gifts worth 19.42 million yuan ($3.03 million) during his 12 years as a financial sector official. A date for sentencing has not been announced.
- Xiang was removed as chairman of the CIRC “at the start of a government effort to root out risky lending that was feeding debt and corruption,” and his sacking was “meant to underscore Beijing’s resolve,” according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
- As chief insurance regulator, Xiang presided over a huge expansion in the business scope of Chinese insurance companies. The Journal says this also hugely expanded “the debt levels of companies and local governments,” which began to spook the government, leading to a crackdown.
- About two months after Xiang was dismissed from his role as chairman of the CIRC, on June 9, Wu Xiaohui 吴小晖, the billionaire chairman of Anbang Group, was detained by the authorities. Anbang is the epitome of a Chinese insurance company gone wild: It took on massive debts to purchase assets with no connection to insurance, such as New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel, which it bought in 2014.
- In May this year, Wu Xiaohui was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of fundraising fraud and embezzlement.
- In March this year, CIRC was merged with China’s banking regulator, and, one week later, the highly respected Guo Shuqing 郭树清 a.k.a. Whirlwind Guo (郭旋风 Guō Xuànfēng) was put in charge of the new body.