Four people linked to a Hong Kong bookstore which has stocked titles highly critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party have been “delayed,” believed detained by Chinese authorities, while on a visit to Thailand.
Owner Gui Haiming, general manager Lu Bo, store manager Lin Rongji, and staff member Zhang Zhiping of publisher and bookstore company Sage Communications are believed to be in China after having been detained there or in Thailand, their associates told RFA.
Gui and Lin called their wives to reassure them on Friday, but little information about their whereabouts was forthcoming, according to a fellow Sage shareholder surnamed Li.
“They said they were OK, but they’re not OK,” Li said. “They just told their loved ones they would be coming back a bit later than expected, and told them not to worry.”
“But they didn’t answer any questions about where they were or what they were doing,” he said.
Gui, who holds a Swedish passport, went missing in mid-October while on a trip to Thailand, where he owns a holiday home, while Lu and Zhang stopped communicating around Oct. 22-24 after trips back to their family homes in mainland China, Li said.
Li only discovered that Gui, whose company publishes 3-4 books a month on Chinese politics and current affairs, was incommunicado after being contacted by the printers of the next book.
“Usually, he would get back to the printers by the following day if it was urgent, but the printers had been looking for him for a week,” he said.
It is unclear where Lin was when he lost contact with friends and family.
“He used to sleep over at the bookstore a lot, so his wife didn’t know he was missing,” Li said.
Gui has previously published titles critical of the administration of President Xi Jinping, including The Great Depression of 2017, and The Collapse of Xi Jinping in 2017.
Calls to Lu Bo’s and Zhang Zhiping’s cell phones rang unanswered on Friday, while Lin reportedly owns no cell phone.
Repeated calls to the Shenzhen municipal police department, just across the internal border from Hong Kong, also rang unanswered.
An employee who answered the phone at the Swedish consulate in Hong Kong said the consulate was unaware of the reports.
Gui and his colleagues wouldn’t be the first in their profession to be targeted by Beijing.
In May 2014, a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Wednesday handed a 10-year jail term to 79-year-old Hong Kong publisher Yiu Man-tin after he edited a book highly critical of President Xi Jinping. Read the rest of this entry »
Criticism of China’s top party-controlled publications comes amid a spell of tightened scrutiny of China’s news media.
Now, the ruling Communist Party’s own top scribes find themselves in the crosshairs.
Following recent investigations of the party’s mouthpiece daily and top political journal, Chinese antigraft officials said they uncovered a litany of financial and journalistic misconduct, including blackmail and misuse of public funds.
The criticism of China’s top party-controlled publications comes amid a spell of tightened scrutiny of the country’s news media. Graft busters have probed into alleged corruption and other ethical lapses in China’s journalism world in the past year, though the news outlets implicated have mainly been commercial publications rather than official organs.
This changed late Sunday when the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s internal watchdog, criticized the mouthpiece People’s Daily newspaper and the party’s main political journal Qiushi for what it described as a broad range of transgressions.
At the People’s Daily, these include lax enforcement of internal discipline, misuse of public funds for travel, and improper use of official vehicles and residences, the antigraft team said.
“Some domestic bureaus made use of party newspaper resources to pursue profits through joint development projects,” the CCDI said. It added that there had also been “instances of extortion related to the reporting or non-reporting of news in return for compensation.” Read the rest of this entry »
Chriss W. Street continues:
…China is about to show its third straight quarter of negative real (after inflation) GDP growth. The nation had been relying on a stock market boom to play a “decisive role” in funding the nation’s “Silk Road” reforms to transition to a consumer economy.
But as Breitbart News warned in “China’s Lehman Brothers Weekend Begins,” the “Red Dragon” has suffered a financial collapse equivalent in degree to the U.S. stock crash in 2008-9. Unlike the U.S., which used a formal government bailout to stabilize markets, the Communist Party instructed the nation’s banks to use their own balance sheets to guarantee the current $8 trillion stated value of all of China’s 2800 listed stocks.
As Stratfor’s John Minnich points out, “market capitalization of Chinese stock markets hovered around $1 trillion to $2 trillion” before the recent stock boom. At its peak on June 12, “China’s stock market capitalization, all the markets across the country, was something in the area of $10 trillion to $11 trillion.”
Minnich comments that people before the boom might gamble some of their personal savings into the stock market, but “it wasn’t critical to financing, corporate financing in the Chinese economy. Almost all corporate finances came through the state-owned banks.” Read the rest of this entry »
The upper echelons of Chinese leadership appear to have come face to face with a realization that’s true all the world over: slimming down is hard to do
Felicia Sonmez writes: Quality over quantity. Less is more.
Those have been the watchwords of the Chinese Communist Party ever since its top leaders declared in early 2013 that its membership would be controlled in a bid to improve the organization’s “vigor and vitality.”
Two years later, the upper echelons of Chinese leadership appear to have come face to face with a realization that’s true all the world over: slimming down is hard to do.
In a communique released Tuesday, the Organization Department of the Communist Party’s Central Committee said that the party boasted 87.793 million members as of the end of 2014. The figure – which exceeds the entire population of Germany – represents a net increase of 1.1 million from a year earlier.
China is in the midst of a sweeping anti-graft campaign under President Xi Jinping, with announcements of corrupt officials’ investigation and ouster from the party a near-weekly occurrence. Along with that crackdown has come a steady stream of warnings for party members to rein in behavior ranging from their mahjong playing to the use of terms like “dude” or “boss” when addressing their superiors.
At its heart is the pursuit of the party’s survival. Xi and other top leaders have made a point of reminding cadres that the Chinese Communist Party must avoid the same pitfalls that brought about the demise of the former Soviet Union – particularly disloyalty to Communist ideals – with some Chinese scholars warning that the Soviet collapse came when the ranks of its Communist Party had swollen to an unwieldy 19 million, or nearly 10% of the Soviet Union’s adult population.
The membership of the Chinese Communist Party currently stands at about 7.8% of China’s adult population. Read the rest of this entry »
Is China’s Ruling Party on the Brink of Collapse?
“The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun,” influential China scholar David Shambaugh wrote in a March 7 article in the Wall Street Journal. “And it has progressed further than many think.”
Is the ruling China’s Communist Party (CCP) on the brink of collapse? We asked several China hands for their take:
Ho-fung Hung, Associate Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University:
I agree with Shambaugh that there are serious cracks in the CCP regime, not only because of his arguments and evidence but also because of his deep knowledge about and long-time access to the party’s elite. Whether these cracks will lead to the end of CCP rule, nevertheless, is difficult to predict. The prediction about a CCP endgame this time might end up like the many unrealized predictions before. It may also be like the story of boy crying wolf: The wolf didn’t come the first two times, but it finally came when nobody believed it would come. The bottom line is, the CCP is facing very tough challenges. Whether and how it can weather them is uncertain.
“Xi’s purges surely make new enemies and make most of the Party elite feel deeply anxious about their fortunes.”
Xi is a leader who came to power with very few sources of legitimacy. Mao and Deng were among the founding fathers of the People’s Republic of China. Deng handpicked his successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — both of whom got the backing of party elders when they came to power. Xi, despite his princeling background, is the first leader chosen out of a delicate compromise among party factions.
“It won’t be so surprising if some of those anxious elite conspire to depose Xi.”
Amidst Xi’s rise to power, the mysterious Wang Lijun incident occurred, followed by the unusual downfalls of former top leaders Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang. What Wang actually told the American diplomats during his sleepover in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, and what sensitive information he eventually conveyed to Beijing is still unknown. But the rumor that he revealed a plot by other princelings to get rid of Xi through a coup does not sound too crazy. If this is true, then Xi’s frenetic purge of other factions in his anti-corruption campaign makes sense as a desperate move to whip the disrespectful elite to submission through creating a culture of terror within the Party.
Xi’s purges surely make new enemies and make most of the Party elite feel deeply anxious about their fortunes. It won’t be so surprising if some of those anxious elite conspire to depose Xi. Such internal coup against unpopular leaders is not alien to the CCP — it happened with the downfall of the Gang of Four in 1976, and former party chairman Hua Guofeng a few years later.
Second, the party’s internal rift is unfolding at the worst possible time, as far as the economy is concerned. Yes, a 7.4 percent annual growth rate is an enviable number to many other emerging economies. But with the soaring indebtedness of the Chinese economy and the ever aggravating unemployment problem, the Chinese economy needs higher-speed growth to stay above water.
The debt hangover of the 2008-09 stimulus is worrying. China’s debt to GDP ratio jumped from 147 percent in 2008 to 282 percent now, and is still growing. It is at a dangerously high level compared to other emerging economies. The economic slowdown will lead to profit decline for companies and revenue shortfall for local governments, increasing their difficulty in servicing and repaying debts. A vicious cycle of defaults and further growth deceleration could turn a slowdown into something uglier.
It is possible that the CCP elite, no matter how much they dislike Xi and his anti-corruption campaign, will still prefer not to rock the boat. They are aware that they are nobody without the protection of the party-state, and their privileges will be under far greater threat in the wake of a regime collapse. It is also possible that in the years of pacification and domestication following the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, China’s civil society and dissidents have become so timid and cornered that they are incapable of taking advantage of any cracks in the regime.
Is Xi successfully increasing his grip of power through the anti-corruption campaign, or does his rule still suffer from inadequate legitimacy behind the mask of invincibility? Only time can tell. But besides the endgame of CCP rule, we should also ponder another possible scenario: the rise of a hysteric and suffocating dictatorial regime which maintains its draconian control over a society gradually losing its dynamism. Perhaps we can call this hypothetical regime North Korea lite.
Arthur Kroeber, Editor, China Economic Quarterly:
Neither China nor its Communist Party is cracking up. I have three reasons for this judgment. First, none of the factors Shambaugh cites strongly supports the crackup case. Second, the balance of evidence suggests that Xi’s government is not weak and desperate, but forceful and adaptable. Third, the forces that might push for systemic political change are far weaker than the party.
Shambaugh thinks the system is on its last legs because rich people are moving assets abroad, Xi is cracking down on the media and academia, officials look bored in meetings, corruption is rife, and the economy is at an impasse. This is not a persuasive case. True, many rich Chinese are moving money abroad, both to find safe havens and to diversify their portfolios as China’s growth slows. But in aggregate, capital outflows are modest, and plenty of rich Chinese are still investing in their own economy. Following an easing of rules, new private business registrations rose 45 percent in 2014 — scarcely a sign that the entrepreneurial class has given up hope.
The crackdown on free expression and civil society is deeply distressing, but not necessarily a sign of weakness. It could equally be seen as an assertion of confidence in the success of China’s authoritarian-capitalist model, and a rejection of the idea that China needs to make concessions to liberal-democratic ideas to keep on going. It is also related to the crackdown on corruption, which Shambaugh wrongly dismisses as a cynical power play. Corruption at the end of the era of Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao had got out of control, and posed a real risk of bringing down the regime. A relentless drive to limit corruption was essential to stabilize the system, and this is precisely what Xi has delivered. It cannot work unless Xi can demonstrate complete control over all aspects of the political system, including ideology.
As for the economy and the reform program, it is first worth pointing out that despite its severe slowdown, China’s economy continues to grow faster than that of any other major country in the world. And claims that the reform program is sputtering simply do not square with the facts. 2014 saw the start of a crucial program to revamp the fiscal system, which led to the start of restructuring local government debt; first steps to liberalize the one-child policy and the hukou, or household registration system (discussed for years but never achieved by previous governments); important changes in energy pricing; and linkage of the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets. News reports suggest that we will soon see a program to reorganize big SOEs under Temasek-like holding companies that will focus on improving their flagging financial returns. These are all material achievements and compare favorably to, for instance, the utter failure of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to progress on any of the reform agenda he outlined for his country two years ago. Read the rest of this entry »