The latest victim of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) entertainment industry crackdown is actress Zhao Wei (趙薇), whose entire back catalog suddenly disappeared from China’s online platforms.
As rumors began to spread that Zhao and her husband had fled to France, state broadcaster China Central Television wrote on social media: “Zero tolerance for unethical artists and a firm resolve to rectify chaos is the real way to protect the entertainment industry.”
The post did not refer to Zhao by name, but its target was clear.
Aside from establishing a shell company to acquire shares in a listed company, for which Chinese regulators fined the pair in 2017, the other accusations against Zhao seem like trumped up charges.
To the outside world, the CCP’s seemingly random crackdown on Zhao is an enigma, but if the incident is placed within the context of the party’s history of class struggle and the current international situation, it is clear that China is once again going through a period of nationalization and private assets confiscation.
During the Chinese Civil War, to eliminate the largely Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-supporting landowning class, the communists carried out purges of landowners in CCP-controlled areas. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the new government was strapped for cash. Under the guise of wealth redistribution, the CCP engaged in a succession of class-based actions directed at landowners, wealthy peasants, industrialists and businesspeople, confiscating assets and redistributing land to peasants.
Although the methods were crude and harsh, the policy enjoyed wide support among China’s large peasant population, bestowing the CCP with legitimacy.
Four decades after opening up to trade with the outside world, China has become the world’s second-largest economy, but its growth is stagnating.
Externally, China is faced with sanctions from the US and other countries.
Despite these economic and trade woes, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) insists on continuing a massive military expansion and promoting Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. With China’s finances increasingly under pressure, CCP officials have begun to advocate an expansion of the state sector under the slogan: “The state advances, the private sector retreats.”
The policy also involves restricting private sector growth through regulation and other measures. The goal is to “liberate” stored-up private sector wealth for use by the Chinese government.
To achieve this aim, Xi has been promoting a new concept called “common prosperity.” On the surface, it is an altruistic scheme designed to ease China’s wealth disparity and counteract negative effects of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) policy of “letting some people get rich first.”
However, in reality, the new concept is about wrestling wealth from rich Chinese, and has so far included massive protection payments by Chinese tech behemoths Alibaba Group Holdings and a Tencent Holdings.
In an even more direct signal of the coming clampdown on private wealth, the Bank of China has announced that it would soon begin strictly examining asset flows connected to private bank accounts containing more than 100,000 yuan (US$15,495).
This is why wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs such as Ma, or minted actors and actresses such as Zhao or Fan Bingbing (范冰冰), have become the targets of a new round of struggles.
Yang Chung-hsin is a civil servant.
Translated by Edward Jones
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