NY Times blocked in China as it reveals Wen Jiabao’s obscene family wealth

I remember when Wen Jiabao first became prime minister. There were such high hopes, and they’ve never really abated: Wen has always been seen as “the good CCP leader.” As if by magic, he was always on the scene as tragedies struck, be they earthquakes or floods or winter storms in Guangzhou at Chinese New Year time or high-speed rail crashes. And there was something genuine about the Man of the People, the one who cared about China’s disenfranchised. And maybe he really does care. He would have to be a damned good actor if he didn’t.

But whether he cares or not, it still looks like there’s a dark side to his story. Today China blocked the NY Times after it delivered a bombshell story: Wen’s family members have made billions — yes, billions — of dollars through investments in family ventures and the awarding of contracts. Needless to say, something doesn’t smell right here. Is it conceivable that Wen simply didn’t know, or that he knew and was disgusted by the corruption but felt powerless to control it?

Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives, some of whom have a knack for aggressive deal-making, including his wife, have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy.

Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.

There was something so simply good about Wen (or the way the media portrayed him), almost saintly. He was, ironically, a crusader against corruption and he was always positioned as the one who had “the people’s interests” at heart. This story delivers a crushing blow to such a carefully crafted image. Either Wen was implausibly ignorant or implausibly impotent, unable to stop his family from exploiting his position.

This is a remarkable story. It is one of the best-researched stories on China I’ve ever seen. It is exhaustive, and by simply relaying the facts it is utterly devastating. This is Pulitzer material, and I don’t say that very often. No wonder the NY Times is blocked in China today. I would be shocked if it weren’t.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 69 Comments

So, it’s fascinating how many comments there are on the article that have some version of the following: “I went online today only to find NYT blocked. So, I got onto a VPN and immediately realized why once I saw the headline.”

My question: how deliberate was the timing?

October 26, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

Can you say “putting things in the family name so as to keep it off your own records?”

October 26, 2012 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

This bit is just priceless:

” “When I invested in Ping An I didn’t want to be written about,” Ms. Duan said, “so I had my relatives find some other people to hold these shares for me.”

But it was an “accident,” she said, that her company chose the relatives of the prime minister as the listed shareholders — a process that required registering their official ID numbers and obtaining their signatures. Until presented with the names of the investors by The Times, she said, she had no idea that they had selected the relatives of Wen Jiabao.”

Looking forward to seeing how Hongxing’s going to try to spin this, ’cause we all remember that time Obama’s family blew up and accumulated billions in wealth. The Clock, not so much – he really just doesn’t know how to troll effectively (hint: admitting to playing strip-show-and-tell with people of the same sex whilst denouncing homosexuality is not a great strategy).

October 26, 2012 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

My god man, but a hell of a lot of this was shamelessly direct. The awarding of contracts to his brother and his mom’s sudden wealth? What continues to astound me about the higher-ups is that they have absolutely no fear, not even any doubt, about what they are doing while they are doing it. Epimethean in all things.

October 26, 2012 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

Wen, like anyone in power in China, faces two demands, and both of them are kind of “ethical”: to care about his country, and to care about his family. And probably needless to say, family comes before the country. That’s one of the “contradictions” Mao Zedong took into intensive care. Should we feel sad that he didn’t succeed in killing them?

So, Wen isn’t necessarily a bad man. From a personal perspective, he did the right thing, or the best thing available. But from a “national” (calling China a nation is a simplification) perspective, exactly the same thing is betrayal of confidence. Thinking about that term itself, it seems to describe the core problem. In “society”, there is no confidence anyway – neither top-down, nor bottom-up, nor “vertically”. That’s why the ruling society (the only real society) is sometimes described as a ship on the sea (the country or people).

The system is the problem. I’m not saying that easily, because I believe in individual responsibility. But the system, even if it wasn’t organic, has shaped China’s organism, its self-perception, and its ethical definitions. Wen and Hu came from the Hu-Yaobang school. Wen lost the 1989 battle on Zhao Ziyang’s side. All that happened afterwards served him, not the people. Wen hasn’t been good for his country, just as Zhou Enlai wasn’t good for his country. They have been tranquilizers, and quite the opposite to agents of change. Because Wen’s second – or even first, who knows – loyalty belongs to the CCP.

It’s important that investigative journalists document these structures. They should be a warning to us, because Wen’s road – for whatever motives he took it – is actually very human. That’s what made him convincingly humane. But it hasn’t made him an effective administrator.

This is also China’s paradox. Without accountability, it won’t be able to handle the contradictions – not in a morally acceptable way, anyway.

October 26, 2012 @ 5:07 pm | Comment

Previously linked by me and then by Mike in that order.

October 26, 2012 @ 5:45 pm | Comment

[...] Obscene Family Wealth, Peking Duck, Oct 26, 2012 » How the Horse Broke itself in, March 22, 2012 » State Information [...]

October 26, 2012 @ 6:51 pm | Pingback

@KT – Dude, will you please quit the “me first” angle? This is the internet and we are discussing an article that just got splashed all over the world’s media (I see it on the Guardian’s front page, for example). I first saw this posted by a bunch of China bloggers on Facebook where it spread like wild-fire, and it’s very likely that Richard saw it in the same place.

October 26, 2012 @ 7:01 pm | Comment

To quote a recent retweet I received from @Kaiserkuo:

“@niubi: So thanks to the NYTimes do we now know more about the Wen Jiabao family holdings than we do about the Romney family holdings?”

And another tweet by @KaiserKuo:

“Today in Beijing you can neither see the NYT nor the building 100 meters away” (due to China’s ‘Great-firewall’ and air pollution)

October 26, 2012 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

@Yamabuki Zhou – Actually we still know much less. We have the tax returns for Romney and his wife for 2010 and the estimate for 2011. We have full disclosure of current assets. The scandal surrounds pre-2010 tax returns and holdings. No-one was under the mis-impression that Romney was less than rich before this data was released, and no actual wrong-doing (as opposed to morally questionable tax avoidance) was uncovered. If elected, Mitt Romney will have to have his assets publicly disclosed by law –

http://www.oge.gov/Financial-Disclosure/Public-Financial-Disclosure-278/Public-Financial-Disclosure/

In contrast, after ten years at the summit of power in the PRC, we literally know nothing of Wen Jiabao’s actual holdings. We know nothing of his earnings. We known nothing about how much he pays in tax – or even if he pays it at all. We can only peck around at what appear to have been leaked details.

October 26, 2012 @ 10:16 pm | Comment

What I’d like to know is what motivates people like Kaiser Kuo to (repeatedly) draw such obviously false equivalence.

One would think it would be rather embarrassing after a while.

October 26, 2012 @ 11:12 pm | Comment

Is David Barboza based in China? If so, I assume he must be on his way somewhere else and this is a parting gift, because it sure doesn’t seem like having your name on an article like this would make future journalistic work in China easy.

October 27, 2012 @ 12:41 am | Comment

@Handler – Personally I’ve got no great animus against the man. I will say that, as a general comment not directed at Kuo, there is a degree of ‘tweaking’ of message particular to some Americans among the Beijing set that cannot be totally displeasing to the CCP, but the point of commentary about China is neither to please nor displease the CCP. It is to understand China in the whole.

Being more familiar with dealing with affairs in other states, Australian, Canadian, and European commenters on China are rather less likely to feel the need to draw such equivalences to affairs in their home countries or reach for Orientalism as a way of explaining what’s going on. Garnaut’s excellent commentary on Chinese affairs stems from his information-packed reportage, explaining things in terms of Chinese history without the need to draw equivalences to make the subject matter more familiar to readers (e.g., labelling Hua Guofeng “China’s Gerald Ford” and so-forth).

October 27, 2012 @ 12:42 am | Comment

Barboza is based in Shanghai. It will be interesting to see what happens. They got rid of Melissa Chan of Al Jazeera for shining the flashlight too brightly.

October 27, 2012 @ 12:48 am | Comment

The new boss, just like the old boss. The old boss, just like the new boss. As long as they cower behind the walls of Zhongnanhai, as long as they feel that they are untouchable, as long as they think they know best in that special “paternalistic” way, they will continue to be completely corrupt morally, politically and intellectually. Substitute Capitol HIll, the White House or Washington, DC for Zhongnanhai, and the same holds true. We claim that the difference is that we can talk about it, write about it and investigate it. We just don’t know what we don’t know.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:45 am | Comment

FOARP

Yes, obviously it is nothing personal, but applying such a terribly simplistic conception of “balance” to reportage and analysis is as foolish as trying to keep a lifeboat perfectly level on choppy seas.

I generally agree that many American commenters (though I suspect this is not true of qualified journalists like Osnos) are prone to find misleading parallelisms. I’m not so sure about the relative practice of Orientalism, however. This, to me, seems far more prevalent among the ever-tolerant (to the developing world, at least) Euro multipolar types, particularly those who fatten the Guardian’s monthly data transfer.

JR

I find it difficult to believe that Wen lost the 1989 battle on Zhao Ziyang’s side. It is far more likely that he betrayed his boss to acquire his position. Also, while I’ve always recognized the sharpened tension between family and government duties in China, it should be noted that both sets of duties require a determinate structure to obtain. If one is letting second cousins twice removed profit from one’s name and position, or promises made based on one’s name and position, one is failing both one’s family as a structural unit and (here) the State. Just as ministers are culpable for negligence and corruption, family members are culpable for negligence and dissolution. Wen can only be said to have done the right thing if the Chinese are as lax in their concern for their family members’ virtue as they are in their rulers’ virtue, whether due to apathy or any other reason.

October 27, 2012 @ 2:03 am | Comment

Neither of us will likely prove his view of Wen’s role in 1989, Handler. My view isn’t that he betrayed Zhao. He surely distanced himself from Zhao’s policies after June 1989 – that’s how he continued his career (and enriched himself and his family people). John Garnaut’s take (Garnaut has been mentioned on these threads before) writes that Wen played by the rules of a ruthless system, but that doesn’t suggest that Wen switched allegiance before Zhao’s ouster.

My point is that Wen isn’t a particularly bad man. He failed his country, there is little doubt about that. But if he hadn’t failed his country, he wouldn’t have become a top leader.

If someone from my family did the things Wen did, I’d feel that he failed my family. But that’s – probably – not Wen’s view. If you think I defended Wen and his clan with my post above, let me make it clear that it’s no defense. However, exorcism doesn’t help to understand a situation. I feel no need to paint the guy in the darkest colors.

October 27, 2012 @ 2:42 am | Comment

“NY Times blocked in China as it reveals Wen Jiaobao’s obscene family wealth”

I wonder if the use of the word “obscene” is justified. In my opinion, family wealth, in and of itself, is not obscene. The source of obscenity would be how the wealth was obtained.

Further, I would ask how much Wen himself is worth. Do you feel that Wen used his position to obtain wealth personally?

How much at fault is Wen if other individuals in his family obtain wealth, legally or illegally? Would we impute fault on Obama or Romney if other members of their family became wealthy under less than legal circumstances?

Admittedly the U.S. and China are not the same, but China has transformed itself from a Socialist to a market run economy with control by the state.

James McGregor, in his book “NO ANCIENT WISDOM, NO FOLLOWERS: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism” points out that “A 2011 study of China’s wealthy estimated that the richest seventy members of China’s National People’s Congress have a combined worth of about $90 billion— and they increased their wealth by $ 11.5 billion in 2010 alone.”

Clearly Wen is but one piece in a greater whole. And as it’s been pointed out, the system itself is the problem. But as in the U.S., money and power often go together. This is really nothing more than human nature. Mao, and many others before and after him have tried to change human nature, but it’s just not possible.

October 27, 2012 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Would we impute fault on Obama or Romney if other members of their family became wealthy under less than legal circumstances?

Absofuckinglutely. If their relatives amassed BILLIONS of dollars exclusively through their connections to one politician all hell woud break loose. Because there is no way the official didn’t know what was happening. Wen knew. If he didn’t he was a blithering idiot. If it came out now that a member of Obama’s immediate family had made BILLIONS of dollars through government contracts and investments you had better be sure it would be major breaking news. All eyes woud be on Obama, and if he said he had no idea it was happening he would be branded either an accomplice or a blithering idiot.

October 27, 2012 @ 10:31 am | Comment

@Wen knew.

He knew according to Wikileak cables. But Wen couldn’t do anything to eliminate the loophole since “there’s no law or regulation in China [that] prohibits relatives of even the most senior officials from becoming deal-makers or major investors.”

October 27, 2012 @ 11:29 am | Comment

But Wen couldn’t do anything to eliminate the loophole

That’s another way of putting it, but it’s euphemistic. If Wen had turned his back on those family members, they’d have been toast, in “business” terms. There would have been ways, if he had wanted to take them.

October 27, 2012 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

“Clearly Wen is but one piece in a greater whole. And as it’s been pointed out, the system itself is the problem. But as in the U.S., money and power often go together.”

What typically doesn’t go together is power, money, and people who claim it is their uniquely “advanced natures”, consciousness, and__selflessness__which legitimize their rule over the populace. Outside of the PRC, that is.

“This is really nothing more than human nature.”

Well, by their own testimony, it’s considerably more advanced than that.

JR

I wasn’t insinuating you we’re defending Wen; I simply don’t think your family/state contradiction lines up as neatly as you initially suggested. Nor do I believe anyone was painting him in the darkest colors, though that’s not to say there is no role for exorcism. It wouldn’t surprise me if much of the information on Wen came from those previously aligned with Bo Xilai.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

I simply don’t think your family/state contradiction lines up as neatly as you initially suggested.

I suppose you are taking issue with the second and third paragraph of my comment #5, handler. But so far – from your previous comment, I can’t see how they wouldn’t line up.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

And as it’s been pointed out, the system itself is the problem.

If this refers to me, I have to protest. That money and power often go together is part of human nature (its darker side), but another part of human nature is a sense of integrity. There are Chinese people who bear testimony to that, and some of them are paying a very high price.

Back to Wen Jiabao: I think he made choices. He didn’t have to become corrupt. He could have avoided that, even without paying the price many dissidents are paying. But then, this leaves a lot of unanswered questions about our business with China. If its political or political-economic system is as bad as we seem to agree it is, and if we don’t turn away from it, I prefer to be slow in condemning Wen. If our teachers haven’t taught us better – in free societies, after all -, I prefer to be rather slow in condemning Chinese people, including people at the top.

I’ll rather try to learn from people who managed to stick to the brighter side of human nature.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:34 pm | Comment

@That’s another way of putting it, but it’s euphemistic. If Wen had turned his back on those family members, they’d have been toast, in “business” terms. There would have been ways, if he had wanted to take them.

Sure Wen could do that but still doesn’t close the loophole of mixing politics and business which his relatives has taken advantage of.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

Sure Wen could do that but still doesn’t close the loophole of mixing politics and business which his relatives has taken advantage of.

No question. But that’s the excuse of everyone who doesn’t ask questions about the color of the bucks he’s making. If Wen had denied his relatives (and himself, because their business is family business) this “privilege”, it would have made a difference.

As I said: from his own family logic, he may think he made the right choice. But in a “national” sense, he has failed. That’s why Chinese people need to talk about “patriotism” all the time – to obliterate the noise of their betrayal.

And to Wen’s credit: he’s much less noisy in those terms, than many other leaders, and followers.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

P.S.: less noisy in “patriotic” terms, that is.

October 27, 2012 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

JR

Have you, by any chance, explored research into Antigone *beyond* Hegel?
The contradiction doesn’t line up because a contradiction between state and family is–precisely in those societies where the apparent contradiction is strongest–based on an explicit comparison. Just as the ruling power of China has traditionally structured the relationship between it and China’s populace in terms of kinship, so too has the CCP, and no one is more an emblem of this than Grandpappy Wen. This arrangement encourages the recognition of a ruler’s treament of his own family as a way of determining the legitimacy of his relationship to the populace. It is a comparison that held true for Creon and it is, after all, essentially the avenue Wen and Hu tried to take against Bo. While you may have heard that he was human and was put in a hard place, few others did. The message was, well, if he allowed his family to do those kinds of things, he can’t possibly be qualified to lead.

October 27, 2012 @ 3:05 pm | Comment

“That’s why Chinese people need to talk about “patriotism” all the time – to obliterate the noise of their betrayal.”

And here I was thinking it was despair.

October 27, 2012 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

Two things re #28, handler: traditional power in China didn’t legitimize its rule with national issues. That’s different now, and that’s why there is a contradiction.

While you may have heard that he was human and was put in a hard place, few others did.
I’m aware that few others did. But why should I join other peoples’ views without being convinced? Just to be clear: I didn’t say that Wen was in a “hard place”. I’m stating a conflict between “family” and “nation”, and I’ve put a question mark to the latter.

I can’t see yet where you see our fundamental difference. Can you describe that difference as you see it?

October 27, 2012 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

If Wen had turned his back on those family members, they’d have been toast, in “business” terms.

Maybe they shouldn’t have gone into business and got an ordinary salaried job like most middle class Chinese people.

October 27, 2012 @ 6:17 pm | Comment

“Sure Wen could do that but still doesn’t close the loophole of mixing politics and business which his relatives has taken advantage of.”
—so he chose willful ignorance instead. Is this the best that China’s so-called meritocracy can give us? Especially coming from a guy who was supposedly against precisely this sort of thing? The guy who is nominally against corruption will turn the other cheek while everyone and everything close to him, including the kitchen sink, grossly enriches themselves. No wonder mere mortal CCP types can barely raise their head long enough from the trough to breathe.

October 28, 2012 @ 3:08 am | Comment

@S.K. Cheung

Wen’s willful ignorance still does not close the “legal” part of China’s rampant “crony capitalism.”

October 28, 2012 @ 7:48 am | Comment

JR

I’m not sure we have a fundamental difference other than my opinion that 1) the terms of the “contradiction” between state and family haven’t changed in China, particularly at the upper eschelons; and 2) the explicit comparison between governance of the state and governance of the family offers a way to make contradictions which do obtain tractable (and thus no longer contradictions–I would like to reprise my use of tensions above). In the latter case, We seem to hold slightly differing opinions on whether we are dealing with fuses or switchgears.

As for asking you to join other people’s views, I’m not interested in that. Rather, it should be clear from the comparison I was making between Bo and Wen that the contradiction between family and state was viewed very differently in both cases, which is one reason why one should not regard the contradiction as necessary or absolute.

I would like to hear your reasons, if you have interest in elaborating further, why the “nation” would create a contradiction where there was once merely opposition. I presume this would be contingent upon considerable buy-in on the part of the populace, but I think it would be a paradigm shift much harder to justify amongst those at the top who, after all, subject themselves to a whole host of discourses in varying conflict with nationalism and tribalism.

October 28, 2012 @ 10:50 am | Comment

To Jason,
that’s true. Wen practicing what he pretends to preach does not prevent the next guy in the CCP from doing the same thing. And there are many “next guys” around as far as the CCP is concerned. But if it’s a “legal” loophole, and the CCP makes all the laws, then what’s stopping the CCP from closing said loopholes? I guess this is the part where we invoke the presence of numerous apparent factions within the CCP, and perhaps many of those factions are not terribly interested in shutting down their own corruption…unless your name is Bo Xilai of course.

October 28, 2012 @ 11:38 am | Comment

Maybe they shouldn’t have gone into business and got an ordinary salaried job like most middle class Chinese people.

You seem to be implying that the only way they got into business was because of their familial connections.

October 28, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Comment

[...] “Billions in Hidden Riches” of the family of current Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. This reportedly led to the NY Times being blocked in [...]

October 28, 2012 @ 1:20 pm | Pingback

@t_co –

“You seem to be implying that the only way they got into business was because of their familial connections.”

All of them? Who knows – maybe “Winston” Wen is really just a business genius and that’s why everything he touches seems to turn to gold? Wen Jiabao’s 90-year-old mother? Tell me how she could have become an 亿-llionaire except through corrupt deals?

No, the main reason this is news is because it stinks to high heaven of genuine corruption. Whoever helped leak this news knew what the effect would be – a stain on the up-till-now fairly clean reputation of ‘Grandpa’ Wen, most likely to reduce his influence post-retirement.

October 28, 2012 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

支持! @foarp

October 28, 2012 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

handler: a nation state makes different demands on people – “ordinary” citizens and upper echelons alike – demands different from traditional Chinese civilization, which didn’t even consider itself one civilization (or state) among others in theory. In a merely Chinese world (that’s how China saw itself), there are only clans and personal ties – there’s not even a “public” in the western sense of the world – and no concept of a common destiny.

In that old world, you didn’t owe others accountability of the kind that is absent in Wen’s case today, and whose absence creates the stir about the Wen family business. What upper echelons had to observe was some symbolism, some very low standards of how to be “humane”. And cardinal factors in existing as a human being was to be faithful to your father (as a son), to your husband (as a wife), and to your ruler (as a minister). That was it, and it came before other kinds of ethics. By that measure, Wen’s behavior doesn’t spell a crime – it would actually be practical ethics.

Btw, if we should consider either Hu Jintao or the collective leadership as “the ruler”, he has also been very faithful to them. It’s no good to stand out with virtue, before your peers or your ruler. (By CCP logic, it may lead to disciplinary procedures, for violating party discipline.)

By China’s own legal standards, however, Wen’s behavior probably does spell a crime. According to its self-image, it definitely does. And so does the behavior of many other top leaders, if not all of them.

Hence the internet blockage.

October 28, 2012 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

In short: the contradiction, in my view, is between the san gang / wu chang on the one hand, and the requirements of a (working) modern society on the other.

October 28, 2012 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

The whole cover-up is rather unnecessary. It is what Chinese expect and what most of them would probably do themselves in that position. It will take a giant change of the people’s mentality to see something wrong in nepotism.

October 28, 2012 @ 10:41 pm | Comment

For the first time, Chinese nationalists support the NYTimes in this report, while Falun’s official newspaper Epoch Times says NYTimes is slandering Wen Jiabao.

October 29, 2012 @ 2:21 am | Comment

tennessee euler: if there is a thing that many normal citizens and many leaders have in common, it’s a certain double standard. It isn’t bad when I’m doing it, because it is something completely different in my case. Citizens resent corrupt cadres, and top leaders resent corrupt low-level cadres. When corruption charges are brought, they are often more a weapon against competitors, than actual measures to counter corruption itself, at least when it is about provincial, municipal or central leaders.

Besides, I know people who don’t believe that top leaders may be corrupt, and their disbelief seems to be genuine. Low-levels, yes. Top-level, no. As if top-level officials had never served on lower levels in the past.

This fragile (fragile, because it’s so superficial) faith in the politbureau’s virtue among quite many citizens is probably the main reason for the censors to block the New York Times.

October 29, 2012 @ 3:19 am | Comment

A number of FLG media people have agreed to a story that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were “repentant” of the treatment FLG had got over the past decades. I think “New Tang Dynasty” TV broke that “news” first.

Wen therefore needs to stand out as a model of virtue. For a change, the politbureau and FLG share an interest in protecting Wen.

I’m not saying that the Boxun story is necessarily wrong – but if other correspondents had received the same material on a silver platter, they probably wouldn’t remain silent.

October 29, 2012 @ 3:24 am | Comment

An Epoch Times link? C’mon, Clock, get off the phone!

October 29, 2012 @ 5:43 am | Comment

Re: the legal letter issued by the Wen family by Beijing legal firm. Wen (if he was the one who initiated this legal response) must be out of his freaking mind issuing this very selective denial.

You can be sure that there will be threats to break both his arms if he goes beyond “denial” and proceeds to challenge the claims by the NYT.
In which jurisdiction would the legal challenge be made?
God, a world press field day and this would be one which couldn’t be managed with usual domestic SOPs.

The speculations are fabulous.

His first mistake was even responding to the NYT.

Hubris.

October 29, 2012 @ 6:32 am | Comment

This has been a very big roll of the dice by the NYT after a pretty tarnished decade. You can be sure they workshop ed this “expose” every which way bar none, and with lots of serious (including Chinese) advice before publishing.

It is also highly possible that they withheld a bit of ammunition to cover future eventualities.

For the sake of zhongnanhai public harmony, Wen should take this one on the chin for the Party and quietly retire in Beihai.

October 29, 2012 @ 6:52 am | Comment

This is a remarkable story. It is one of the best-researched stories on China I’ve ever seen. It is exhaustive, and by simply relaying the facts it is utterly devastating. This is Pulitzer material, and I don’t say that very often. No wonder the NY Times is blocked in China today. I would be shocked if it weren’t.

Are you insane?

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china-news/new-york-times-story-planted-by-beijing-faction-says-news-website-307799.html

In an Oct. 26 broadcast, Voice of America quoted Beijing reporter Dong Fang as saying that all of the media had received the same information on Wen as was published by the NY Times. The information came with audited material according to Dong.
The publisher of an independent Chinese-language news website, speaking anonymously said in a phone interview that whenever Korean, Japanese, or Western media publish detailed reports about the secrets of CCP officials, “The reports are fed to them. These media can never develop this kind of information on their own.”

October 29, 2012 @ 8:22 am | Comment

” A few people have been pouring filth on Chongqing (Mum) and me and my family”. Bo before fall from grace.

Say no more.

October 29, 2012 @ 8:53 am | Comment

I recommend reading the Epoch-Times link, but I don’t believe their story. If Mr. Barboza’s colleagues, too, had been offered a planted story, they wouldn’t silently watch the New York Times basking in the fame now. As I wrote above – Falun Gong and the politbureau appear to have a common interest in this case to protect Wen.

KT, I was wondering about the place where Wen or his family would take legal steps (if at all, because they haven’t flatly announced any yet), too. New York? Beijing? Shanghai?

Interesting times.

October 29, 2012 @ 1:30 pm | Comment

Btw, I don’t think that Wen will “fall from grace”, – unless he seriously mishandles this case (which he or his family might do). But these stories could diminish his influence after retirement, and during his last few months in office. And the choreographers of the 18th CCP national congress won’t be amused either.

October 29, 2012 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

I mean this sort of shit is par for the course once you hit the Central Committee.

Sigh…

October 29, 2012 @ 2:06 pm | Comment

@JR. If Wen authorized that legal statement, he clearly has taken leave of his senses. To take the next step – court – irrespective of the jurisdiction would open a floodgate.

Just imagine the leaks to the media, and not just by the NYT, and you cannot rule out a knock on effect bringing his colleagues and their financial affairs into the spotlight.

Political assassination within the power elite by media leak. Once that boundary is transgressed a few times, it becomes par for the course, with little concern that it could bring the whole house of cards down.

Now if a member of Wen’s extended family initiated this letter, it just points to a family adrift and the fact that Wen is no longer in control of his household ie he is a lousy Confucian patriarch, and so should be put out to pasture asap.

Just look at the Bo chain of events, each more colorful than its predecessor.

Or maybe I have a fevered imagination.

October 29, 2012 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

“I mean this sort of shit is par for the course once you hit the Central Committee.

Sigh…

What, so there’s a relatively uncorrupt layer sandwiched between corrupt local government and the corrupt central committee? Again, this smacks of the “everyone in the PRC government is corrupt except the people I hob-nob with at AmCham, who are, of course, all decent folk” mentality.

RE: This story being planted. Well, the NYT acknowedledged a tip-off in their report:

““In the senior leadership, there’s no family that doesn’t have these problems,” said a former government colleague of Wen Jiabao who has known him for more than 20 years and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His enemies are intentionally trying to smear him by letting this leak out.” “

However they also detailed the lengths they went to to investigate and confirm this report through auditors. The NYT deserve kudos for their investigation of this subject and bringing the ball home on this. The idea that all they did was play stenographer or relay a story that other outlets didn’t want to touch has no basis – instead they appear to have suceeded in turning a tip-off into a confirmed story here.

October 29, 2012 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

KT, I’d probably agree with you if there was a strong political will in China’s leadership to oust Wen Jiabao. But there’s no need to oust him, as he’s leaving anyway, and ic no political will at the top to give him the Bo-Xilai treatment. I’m finding it hard to assess how many Chinese citizens will be “reached” by this story, but I don’t epect it to be particularly destabilizing. Some Chinese people will feel that there’s no good uncle at the top after all. Alright then. In that case, this case suggests that all of them are rather nasty uncles, and you still can’t mess with them.

I believe that fear plays a much greater role in supporting the CCP’s rule than most discussions would suggest. People won’t take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands against Wen Jiabao. They only take to the streets if they see possible gains from it, or if their personal lives are seriously affected.

October 29, 2012 @ 11:27 pm | Comment

One more thing: Wen Jiabao has probably had quite a share in Bo Xilai’s fall from power. Let’s assume for a moment that Barboza really got crucial help from Bo supporters to access the information).

In that case, Wen may be furious now, but would still enter the same “opportunity costs” (damage to his personal reputation) once again, if he had to choose.

Also, the belief that Bo had to go prevailed at the top. For whatever reason it did: Zhongnanhai wouldn’t have arranged all these potentially destabilizing shows if no big stuff had been at stake.

Did I mention before that I don’t necessarily believe in Gu Kailai’s guilt? I’m not believing in her innocence either, but the preparedness in the Western press to take the verdict against her for real still surprises me.

Can anyone imagine an impartial court acquitting her under any circumstances, once she was arrested and her husband put under house arrest? Oh, please.

October 30, 2012 @ 12:35 am | Comment

“Political assassination within the power elite by media leak. Once that boundary is transgressed a few times, it becomes par for the course, with little concern that it could bring the whole house of cards down.”

@ JR. I wasn’t suggesting that the common folk would have any role to play in this winner-takes-all court intrigue.

Rather, I was thinking of a point made in the Chinalawblog on negotiating tactics. No. 5 – Revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

“Even when it will actually suffer economic damage from its conduct, it may still focus on obtaining revenge for its defeat. The passage of time makes little difference. Their only concern is on obtaining revenge”.

More importantly: “People who are more vengeful tend to be those who are motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status. They don’t want to lose face”.
http://www.chinalawblog.com/2012/10/how-to-handle-chinese-negotiating-tactics-part-three.html

Other than that, the western chatterati have got it all wrong. Its really an us-versus- them issue. The Guardian and esp. the Financial Times link provided.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/29/china-accuses-wen-jiabao-critics?newsfeed=true

Now, let us get our heads right, okay.

October 30, 2012 @ 4:29 am | Comment

“On Monday afternoon, meanwhile, it emerged that large chunks of the People’s Daily article on The New York Times had been plagiarised from a variety of online sources. Several sections appeared to have been lifted word-for-word from China News Agency stories while other parts had been copied from previous articles in the People’s Daily itself.”

“The Communist party of China and the government and people will eliminate any disruptions and firmly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Gawd. Can’t we just admit we are dealing with psychopaths?

The Barboza response is illuminating. Has the rumored reception of a “thick bundle of documents” on Wen even been verified by any news agency? I’d like to think Chinese counter-intelligence is more capable than this.

October 30, 2012 @ 8:31 am | Comment

This nytimes report seems to be about as credible as that “devastating document” that revealed Obama was not a US citizen.

October 30, 2012 @ 11:56 am | Comment

@theobserver – If that’s true,then I guess the Wen family won’t have any problems with their law suit, will they? Especially given that the NYT’s information appears to be publicly available data from Chinese regulatory bodies.

October 30, 2012 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

Insider Trading…Chinese style by Peter Lee

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/NJ31Ad02.html

October 30, 2012 @ 6:51 pm | Comment

Please. The Lee article is a masterpiece of hand-waving (only the 2.2 Billion in Ping An really matters, apparently), blame-spreading (it’s really Duan’s fault, so the Wens aren’t really to blame), and false equivalence (people on the New York and London stock exchanges engage in hiding the ball, so it doesn’t matter that the family of the guy running a country is doing it). Only a fenqing could try this kind of nonsense and expect people to be convinced by it.

October 30, 2012 @ 10:16 pm | Comment

@66. I’ve come to regard Peter Lee as a sort of “thinking man’s fenqing” — the logic always collapses in the end, but he makes brave and creative efforts to uphold the party line and delivers it in pretty solid prose and while seeming logical.

October 31, 2012 @ 6:03 am | Comment

I’ve come to regard Peter Lee as a sort of “thinking man’s fenqing” — the logic always collapses in the end, but he makes brave and creative efforts to uphold the party line and delivers it in pretty solid prose and while seeming logical.

Please, let’s not resort to even more ad hominems now, shall we?

October 31, 2012 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

Guys, I’m closing this thread — please post to the new Wen Jiabao thread two posts up. Thanks.

October 31, 2012 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

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