Peng Shuai’s Accusation Pierced the Privileged Citadel of Chinese Politics

Peng Shuai’s Accusation Pierced the Privileged Citadel of Chinese Politics
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Peng Shuai’s Accusation Pierced the Privileged Citadel of Chinese Politics

Peng Shuai’s Accusation Pierced the Privileged Citadel of Chinese Politics

Before Zhang Gaoli was implicated in sexually assaulting a tennis champion, the qualities that the Chinese Communist Party rewarded officials seem to embody: tough, disciplined and loyal to the leader of the time.

From running an oil refinery to rising to the leadership position on China’s fast-growing coast, he avoided scandals and controversies and fell prey to other ambitious politicians. He became famous for his solitary personality. Upon entering China’s top leadership, he invited people to find fault with his behavior.

“Stern, Lo-Ki, Tesittern,” a summary of some of his profiles in the Chinese media. His hobbies include books, chess and tennis, Xinhua news agency reported.

Now, due to the allegations of professional tennis player Peng Shui, Shri. Zhang’s private life has attracted international attention, making him a symbol of a political system that controls secrecy and open accountability. The allegations raise questions about how far Chinese authorities have kept the declared ideals of clean-living integrity in their highly protected homes.

Jude Blanchett, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Peng’s account – that Mr. Zhang forced her to have sex in a years-long, on-off relationship – has not been confirmed. Strong efforts by Chinese authorities to prevent any mention of the matter indicate that Mr. Zhang is unlikely to be called to public account at any time, even if he clears his name. Neither Ms. Peng nor Mr. Zhang has made any public comment since her post.

“It is sad to assume that such abuses of uncontrolled power are not uncommon in an opaque and patriarchal system,” Mr Blanchett added.

When Ms. Peng, 35, posted her allegations on the popular social media platform Weibo on the night of November 2, she took readers into the personal lives of high-profile Communist Party members.

In Ms. Peng’s post, referring to Mr. Zhang, she said the two met a decade ago when her career was beginning and their careers were at their peak. At the time, she wrote, he was the head of the Communist Party in the northern port city of Tianjin, and had told her that his political status made it impossible to divorce his wife.

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After the Communist Party’s highest body, the Politburo, went to the Standing Committee, Mr. Zhang lost contact with her, a position he held for five years. This time, he was tasked with overseeing China’s initial preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which are now being shrouded in mystery.

About three years ago, after stepping down, Shri. Zhang invited the head of the tennis academy, Ms. Peng, to play tennis at a party-owned hotel in Beijing called Kangming, which serves as a host of retired officials. On her post.

Later that day, she said, he forced her to have sex at his home. They resumed the relationship, but he insisted it was not enough. She had to switch cars to be able to enter the government compound where she lives in Beijing, she wrote. He warned her not to tell anyone, not even her mother.

Rarely has there been a word or a case, Mr. Zhang has been considered a potential protagonist for a worldwide scandal. They belong to a generation of officials who emerged after the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution, who adopted the self-imposed principles of collective leadership under Hu Jintao before the country’s current leader, Xi Jinping.

The day before Ms. Peng’s post, Mr. Zhang, 75, was born in a fishing village in Fujian Province. According to official accounts, his father died when he was a child. He began studying economics at Xiamen University in Fujian, but his education was cut short by the Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong closed university classes on a large scale.

In 1970, he was assigned to work in the oil field in southern China, where, according to official profiles, he first filled bags of cement.

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Within a few years he was in management. As Deng Xiaoping and other leaders led China into an era of market reform, Mr. Zhang became one of those officials whose economic skills and the disarray of higher education marked him for promotion. He perfected the systematic, button-down method of a cadre who had sunk his life into the party’s hierarchy.

He served as Shenzhen’s party leader, promoting Hong Kong’s neighboring city of Deng as a showpiece of China’s new business dynamics. He won the favor of Jiang Zemin, Deng’s successor, and took over the predominantly port of Shendong in the early 2000’s.

In 2007, he was promoted to oversee the provincial-level port of Tianjin, which was destined to gain momentum in other coastal areas. Mr Zhang pushed ahead with plans to transform Tianjin’s industrial area into a modern business district – “New Manhattan” – which would attract multinationals and wealthy residents.

That project faltered under debt and expectations were raised, but Mr Zhang moved upwards in 2012 under central leadership. He became executive vice president: in fact, deputy prime minister of China.

“I hope that all party members, officials and members of the public in this city will keep a close eye on me,” Mr Zhang said as he left Tianjin for Beijing in 2012.

Mr. Zhang’s experience managing large projects has made him a safe haven for some of the initiatives he has used to make his mark. He was accompanied by Russian President Vladimir V. Negotiated oil deals with Putin and promoted Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Mr Zhang oversaw preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. In 2016, while visiting the city, Mr. Bach met with Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee.

Mr Bach himself had a video call with Ms Peng on Sunday and intended to reassure players and others concerned about her disappearance within days of seeing her post.

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At the beginning of Mr. Xi’s tenure, there were occasional reports in the state media about the sexual misconduct of officials, intended to signal the seriousness of the party’s purge.

Mr. Xi’s priority now seems to be to stay away from any scandal of scandal that tarnishes the party’s top leaders. References to Ms. Peng’s account were almost wiped off the Internet in China. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested that the focus around Ms. Peng had become “malicious propaganda.” The official media has not shown or reported to Mr. Zhang since Ms. Peng went public; Nor did they directly challenge her account.

“Denying her allegations also gives them a level of confidence that you can’t back down later,” said Louisa Lim, a former journalist who has worked in China for a long time and is the author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia.”

When Mr. Zhang retired in 2018, he moved away from public view, as is the norm in Chinese politics. Retirement often comes with allowances such as high quality healthcare, housing and travel in China, but there is also some maintenance.

“Once you retire, your movements are reported to the party organization department,” said Minxin Pei, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in California who studies the party.

In her post, Ms. Peng suggests that she and Mr. Zhang had a disagreement recently and that he had “disappeared” once again, as in the past. She wrote, however, that she expected her account to have little effect on Mr Zhang’s reputation.

“With your intelligence and intelligence,” she wrote, “I’m sure you’ll either deny it or blame me, or you’ll be able to play cool.”

Claire Fu And Liu Yi Contributed to research.

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