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Head of State Xi Jinping is a thorn in the side of corruption. He will therefore follow the revelations of the Panama Papers with eagle eyes. However, members of his family also use «letterbox companies».
You can rely on China's state media and censors. As was to be expected, the official press kept silent about the revelations in the Panama Papers on Monday, and the authorities are on the hunt for all the terms connected with the offshore affair on the Internet. On Tuesday at least the nationalist “Global Times” found the language again and spread conspiracy theories in the comment “Powerful force is behind Panama Papers”. The revelations of the western media are orchestrated by Washington, it says. And she concludes that the West is exposing such papers to discredit anti-Western politicians and organizations. Comparable misconduct by the Western elite is being swept under the carpet.
Xi Jinping's family in the pillory
Only Vladimir Putin is mentioned by name in the comment. It remains in the dark which Chinese people founded letterbox companies. However, their names should not come as a big surprise to a broad Chinese public. The focus is on Deng Jiagui, who has been married to the older sister of state and party leader Xi Jinping, Qi Qiaoqiao, since 1996. The couple had already been targeted by Western media in 2012 when the Bloomberg news agency revealed that they had assets of several hundred million dollars.
At that time, however, it was not yet known that in 2009, when Xi was climbing the political career ladder, she had founded two letterbox companies - Best Effect Enterprises and Wealth Mining International - in the British Virgin Islands. Both companies, whose fields of activity are unclear, were suspended when Xi took over the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012 and became head of state in 2013. Against this background, Xi is on the safe side because of the questionable financial conduct of his sister and brother-in-law.
In addition to Deng, the names of at least seven other active or retired top politicians and their relatives appear in connection with the revelations - for example that of Li Xiaolin, the daughter of Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng, who was in office from 1987 to 1998. She is said to have owned a foundation together with her husband in Liechtenstein, which in turn was the only shareholder in a company in the British Virgin Islands. Which political side the former head of government Li is on leaves room for speculation - even in the turmoil surrounding the Panama Papers. Originally, Li was assigned to the camp of Jiang Zemin, who was the head of China until 2003. In the meantime, however, he should confess to Xi, who is considered to be the opponent of his predecessor Jiang. Such guesswork plays a role in China in assessing the possible political consequences of the documents now published.
Even if the names of the Chinese financial jugglers do not come as a surprise, the revelations come at an inopportune time for those in power, because since taking office in 2012, Xi has left no stone unturned in mastering corruption and thus getting rid of unpleasant rivals. The leaders of the Communist Party recognize that the public's patience with a shamelessly enriching political elite is finite. The unspoken law in the meritocratically governed country reads: «You give us power without democratic elections, without us using them for our own benefit. In return, we will increase your prosperity. "
The revelations that have now become known, however, show once again - regardless of whether the chosen constructs were legal - how deep the gap is between the wealthy ruling elite and the people. In recent years, the differences between the rich and the poor in China have grown larger and larger. The party leadership has now also identified this development as a problem, because immense social explosives are hidden behind it and could call their claim to power into question.
How much the "Panama Papers" worried the Communist Party and hit a sore spot is also made clear by the procedure on the Internet. After the revelations made waves on social media such as Weibo, the country's largest microblog, the censors took action. Search terms such as “Panama + Offshore” or “Panama + Deng Jiagui” have been blocked. From the point of view of the censors, unpleasant comments on the Internet experienced a similar fate - they were blocked.
A post on Weibo was particularly popular until it was removed. It said, “In the information age, people cannot be fooled and fooled over and over again. One day the truth will come to light ». Netizens (“Netzbürger”) run a great risk with such critical comments. Not only can these be deleted, but the authors also run the risk of being picked up by the security authorities and sent to prison for “spreading rumors”. The work of the censors is like the race between rabbits and hedgehogs. If the authorities believe that they have extinguished a fire, discussions elsewhere continue with encrypted formulations.
China's millionaires are fleeing
In line with the “Panama Papers”, figures were announced on Monday that 9,000 Chinese millionaires turned their backs on the country last year. The economist Gabriel Zucman, who teaches at the University of Berkeley, came to the conclusion in his book “The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens” that the flight of wealthy Chinese from the political uncertainties on the Chinese mainland is a central driver for the flourishing of tax havens is. The Chinese are already looking forward to further revelations about “letterbox companies” of the ruling political elite, even if the state media and censors will then make every effort to nip discussions and criticism in the bud.
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