China cleans up corruption

In October, Huang Guangyu was the second-richest man in China, having built a fortune through his appliance company Gome. But in November, “The Price Butcher,” as Guangyu was known, suddenly disappeared, with hushed reports that he was ‘in trouble.’ Now, not only is Guangyu being held by Chinese authorities in an undisclosed location on charges ...

584812_090617_hujintao5.jpg
584812_090617_hujintao5.jpg

In October, Huang Guangyu was the second-richest man in China, having built a fortune through his appliance company Gome. But in November, "The Price Butcher," as Guangyu was known, suddenly disappeared, with hushed reports that he was 'in trouble.' Now, not only is Guangyu being held by Chinese authorities in an undisclosed location on charges of bribery and stock manipulation, but Der Spiegel reveals that his disappearance is part of a larger anti-corruption effort undertaken by the Communist Party:

The deep fall of corporate CEO Huang, the son of a farmer and a self-made man who worked his way up from being a minor radio merchant to the powerful head of a company with about 1,350 retail stores, is increasingly claiming political casualties.

In October, Huang Guangyu was the second-richest man in China, having built a fortune through his appliance company Gome. But in November, “The Price Butcher,” as Guangyu was known, suddenly disappeared, with hushed reports that he was ‘in trouble.’ Now, not only is Guangyu being held by Chinese authorities in an undisclosed location on charges of bribery and stock manipulation, but Der Spiegel reveals that his disappearance is part of a larger anti-corruption effort undertaken by the Communist Party:

The deep fall of corporate CEO Huang, the son of a farmer and a self-made man who worked his way up from being a minor radio merchant to the powerful head of a company with about 1,350 retail stores, is increasingly claiming political casualties.

At the beginning of the year, the vice minister for public safety and senior criminal prosecutor for economic crimes, Zheng Shaodong, was arrested, as was his deputy Xiang Huaizhu. According to reports in the Chinese media, the two top officials allegedly took bribes from Huang.

In April, two high-ranking Communist Party officials from Guangdong, China’s important exporting province which borders Hong Kong, were arrested on corruption charges[…]

President and Communist Party Chairman Hu Jintao apparently wants to use the affair to clean up the party ahead of October’s celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The affair is also an opportunity to fundamentally restructure the world’s manufacturing powerhouse in response to the global economic crisis.

Whether the anti-corruption efforts last long enough to be more than a gesture at the next anniversary remains to be seen. But such is the fear among wealthy Chinese of becoming targets that Forbes‘s list of richest Chinese is “colloquially known in China as ‘pig slaughter lists.'” Talk about a mixed blessing.

Nelson Ching-Pool/Getty Images

James Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.

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