GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
Peng Shuai is a leading Chinese tennis player. She has won 2 women’s doubles Grand Slams and almost $10m in prize money. There have been tensions as to whether her prize money is all for her or is to be used, in part, to promote tennis in China.
In November 2021 in a 1600 word post on Weibo, she said that she had a romantic relationship with former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. She broke new ground in China by claiming that she had been “forced” to have sexual relations with him. Since then she has been portrayed in the West as a victim of China’s state intolerance.
Switch for a moment to the US and the UK where references to sexual lives of leaders often appear in the media – JFK, Clinton, John Major, Boris Johnson. These things happen in the West. We are used to them. They do not happen in China. And China’s critics in the West seek to use the Peng issue to pinpoint the anti-democratic nature of China.
Protestors in the UK can burn effigies of political leaders at a rally. Such action in China would bring an immediate arrest. That said, Peng has been filmed being interviewed by Western Olympic officials. There are no reports of arrest or imprisonment and we will have to see whether there is further coverage of her during the Winter Olympics.
China does come down on “Stars” who overreach themselves. Media personalities who have paid millions in back taxes rarely re-appear. They are shamed into oblivion. Jack Ma of Ant, the biggest Billionaire in China, has been slapped down in the most public manner. There will be more but does it make China unfree? Look at the figures – 140m Chinese tourists travel overseas without ever trying to “escape” from China.
TOMORROW – THE UYGHURS REVISITED.