China’s state broadcaster CCTV aired a five-day miniseries on corrupt officials. The trailer featured Zhou Jiangyong, a former top official of Hangzhou city, an e-commerce hub. Details of Zhou’s corruption case reveal that Jack Ma was indirectly involved, which brings him back under the spotlight of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.
“Zero Tolerance” was aired from Jan. 15 to Jan. 19. It featured 16 cases of corrupt officials. Zhou was an example of how local cadres could exploit private industries for both political and economic gains, according to the propaganda miniseries.
Zhou and his brother, Jianyong, obtained the assets of a private petrochemical tech company for more than $1 million. Under Zhou’s authority, the company provided the plant and equipment in exchange for “technical support” from Jianyong. It was also exempted from land lease.
Jianyong also “co-founded” another petrochemical tech company with zero capital. He owned 40 percent of the company—more than $2.2 million of registered capital and capital increase. The deal was made possible because the other founder needed a political backer for local businesses, according to Chinese media.
Moreover, a local construction company has repeatedly provided or loaned out money to Jianyong, totalling more than $3.25 million. Zhou’s authority over local projects facilitated the transfer of interest to the company, according to CCTV’s coverage.
Jianyong also co-founded an information tech company that, with Zhou’s endorsement, owned partial operation rights of mobile payment systems in two local subway transportation departments.
The power-money games that Zhou carried out are ubiquitous in the regime. For any ordinary business to succeed in China today, or even to survive, it would need the blessing and support of communist officials.
As for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s so-called “zero tolerance” on corruption, there’s hardly an innocent soul among Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Those who have been able to maintain their power and stay in their posts also relied on their strong political backings.
Zhou fell from grace under Xi’s anti-corruption campaign because “there were too many complaints” and that he could no longer avoid the investigation, according to China Economic Weekly.
The complaints were associated with Zhou’s wife holding a prominent position at a local bank, in which she earned a lot of money but rarely showed up at the bank. The complaints, which came from employees, went to Beijing’s top disciplinary agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Jack Ma Is Targeted Again
When Zhou was under investigation for corruption in August 2021, a report by China Economic Weekly implied that Ma’s fintech company, Ant Group, was indirectly involved in shady dealings.
Ant Group’s subsidiary, Shanghai Yunxin Venture Capital Management Co., had investments in Jianyong’s two data companies—at 14.3 percent and 13.5 percent of shares, respectively.
The information reveals that Xi continues to target certain wealthy individuals, such as Ma, through his “common prosperity” campaign, which he rolled out in August 2021. At the time, Xi said, “China will strive to increase the income of those in the low-income group and expand the middle-income group.” Ma did his part by “donating” $15.5 billion to society.
Under “common prosperity,” the future looks bleak for Ma and big private companies, including foreign-invested companies, in China.
Why did Ma fall from grace? He criticized the authorities in a speech on October 2020, in which he said China’s banks “still have a pawnshop mentality; mortgages and guarantees are for a pawnshop.”
Ma’s remarks of a pawnshop-like Chinese banking system cost him a $2.8 billion fine from the antitrust regulators, which he “accepted with sincerity,” and with “gratitude and respect.” The once outspoken Ma turned low-key and even disappeared from the public since criticizing China’s regulatory system. He was seen in the Netherlands in October 2021.
The “Zero Tolerance” miniseries show that China’s private sector has long contributed to the “common prosperity” of society.
On Jan. 17, in the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, the Davos Agenda 2022, Xi emphasized the CCP’s slogan: “We remain committed to reform and opening up” to call on global cooperation.
But smart and wealthy individuals, such as Ka-shing Li, Hong Kong’s richest person, had long moved his investments out of China. The global trend of foreign investments leaving China is irreversible.
The looming economic crisis has affected civil servants since 2021, when teachers and officials were asked to pay back their bonuses. Some local governments even had bonuses suspended indefinitely. Entering 2022, the Chinese civil servants continue to contribute to “common prosperity” with an up to 25 percent pay cut.
The economic crisis is hitting the regime hard, so it uses its “common prosperity” to target the private sector. It seems Ma will continue to be targeted amid Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.