11/14/2021 – Is China Having a ‘Me Too’ Moment?

Posted on Nov 14, 2021

source: https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/11/is-china-having-a-me-too-moment/

By JIANLI YANG

November 14, 2021 6:30 AM

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has publicly accused Zhang Gaoli — a former member of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (the highest authority in the Chinese Communist Party) and a former Chinese vice premier — of sexual coercion, generating a worldwide media buzz.

It is not so much the stories of sex and corruption at the top ranks of the CCP leadership that shock people. Based on common sense and the general public’s awareness of the magnitude of corruption within the CCP, it would be surprising if Zhang Gaoli was “clean.” A few years ago, the CCP prosecuted Zhou Yongkang (a former Communist Party leader of the same level as Zhang Gaoli, and Xi Jinping’s primary obstacle to the top spot of Chinese leadership) for, among other things, “committing adultery with multiple women and engaging in power-for-money and power-for-sex transactions.” Almost all the CCP officials who have fallen under Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, regardless of gender, have been charged with similar crimes. Delving back a bit further in history, the story of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong’s sexual debauchery has always been well-known to the masses, and many Chinese people are no longer shocked by such behavior.

What is shocking is that Peng Shuai complained openly. She is the first person in the history of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule to use her real name and identity to publicly accuse a top CCP leader of abusing his position of power to coerce her into having sexual relations. Mao is now such a distant figure in history that the stories of his womanizing ways are regarded as historical “anecdotes” having little to do with current politics. As for the allegation that Zhou Yongkang “committed adultery with multiple women and traded his power for sex and money,” who exactly are his accusers? The public doesn’t know, and, more important, none of the women who have accused him of abusing his power for coercive purposes have come forward publicly.

Peng Shuai became a household name as the first Chinese tennis player to rank world No. 1 in doubles by the Women’s Tennis Association. Now she is known to the public as the first person to bring China’s #MeToo movement to the CCP’s top level. Of course, since its inception, the #MeToo movement has been suppressed by China’s top leadership. The fact that Peng Shuai was courageous enough to come forward with her stunning allegations is of great significance, especially at a time when the narrow space for free civil society in China has been reduced to almost nil. The significance of the #MeToo movement is that its participants not only defend their own rights but, more important, encourage other women to raise their voices and tell their stories, so that people can understand the nature of structural oppression fueled by political power. As Peng is a celebrity, this effect has naturally been amplified.

The Peng Shuai–Zhang Gaoli saga includes another female protagonist, Mrs. Zhang Gaoli, whose behavior is a further indication of China’s structural oppression of women by men in positions of power. According to Peng Shuai’s accusation, Zhang Gaoli instructed his wife to watch the door for them when he brought her to his house to try to have sex, and they even had a threesome life for some time. What can explain this state of affairs other than Zhang Gaoli’s position of power? This is the product of the CCP’s culture of “the supremacy of power” that is rooted in China’s patriarchal and marital traditions.

Peng Shuai’s public accusations against Zhang Gaoli are more real and authentic because they allow people to understand the corruption and hypocrisy of the CCP through the accounts of the victimized women, rather than through the spurious bulletins put out by the CCP’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Zhang Gaoli once wrote in the People’s Daily: “We must always be down-to-earth, have a sense of crisis consciousness, and be good and honest. We come from the people, and everything [we do] is for the people; if we leave the people, we won’t achieve anything, and we’ll let down the people.” Zhang Gaoli’s hypocrisy is a reflection of the hypocrisy of the Chinese Communist Party as a whole.

While the Peng Shuai–Zhang Gaoli story has been officially banned from public dissemination and discussion in China, this hasn’t stopped it from becoming a hot topic among the masses, and it has also been repeatedly reported in the media outside of China. There has been no public response to the story from the top echelons of the CCP. Xi Jinping obviously understands that the dissemination of such a story would be detrimental to the CCP’s governance and bad for China’s pursuit of soft power in the international community, where it wants to demonstrate the “Chinese model” and present a good image of China. On the other hand, Xi Jinping, who is well versed in traditional Chinese imperial ruling techniques, also knows that severely punishing corrupt high-ranking officials will build his prestige among the public, which is why anti-corruption has been one of the main elements of his nine years in power.

Of course, there is another clear reason for Xi Jinping to crack down on corrupt officials. Indeed, anti-corruption is Xi’s best tool for removing his political enemies, and he has used this tool so often that he has gained a reputation as a “selective anti-corruption fighter.” Zhang Gaoli, now in retirement, clearly cannot step in to replace Xi Jinping, but could he become part of a force that would prevent Xi from securing an unprecedented third term in power? At this stage, we simply don’t know. But pay special attention to this story, and not just because the way Xi Jinping deals with Zhang Gaoli and even Peng Shuai will be very revealing. Already, it has hinted at more rot in the CCP than that government would admit.11

JIANLI YANG is the founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and the author of For Us, the Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on truth.