A hard-hitting reformist newspaper group in Guangdong has its new year message outrageously censored. A long-established campaigning magazine disappears from the internet. Journalists of professionalism and integrity are angry. It’s terrible! It’s disgusting! Wait,. What…47 mistresses? Gigolos?
Last week Chinese message boards filled with pictures supposedly showing a female executive at the state-owned China Petrochemical Corporation cavorting with male prostitutes in an upmarket Beijing club. Media reports suggested that an American company may have plied her with the gigolos – and then blackmailed her with videotapes of their encounter – to secure a lucrative building contract in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
I think Xi and the boys have cracked this whole tabloid thing, with super soaraway social media the channel of choice. In fact, if I wanted to invent one of those gnomic Chinese sayings to cover what’s going down, I’d go with ‘using the Sun to attack the Guardian’. That’s maybe not quite right: the sex 'n' corruption scandals are unrolling parallel to intensified censorship elsewhere rather than it being a matter of targeted maskirovka. But I bet the punters are more interested in 47 mistresses than a dozen earnest hacks.
I do – seriously – begin to wonder if they’ve got some old Murdoch veterans advising them here.