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NYT: Investigating Family’s Wealth, China’s Leader Signals a Change

Authors: Michael Forsythe, Chris Buckley, and Jonathan Ansfield
April 19, 2014

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"Some political analysts argue that a leader of Mr. Zhou's status would not face an inquiry of this kind unless Mr. Xi regarded him as a direct threat to his power… But another school of thought is that Mr. Xi considers the enormous agglomeration of wealth by spouses, children and siblings of top-ranking officials a threat to China's stability by encouraging mercenary corruption and harming the party's public standing."

HONG KONG — His son landed contracts to sell equipment to state oil fields and thousands of filling stations across China. His son's mother-in-law held stakes in pipelines and natural gas pumps from Sichuan Province in the west to the southern isle of Hainan. And his sister-in-law, working from one of Beijing's most prestigious office buildings, invested in mines, property and energy projects.

In thousands of pages of corporate documents describing these ventures, the name that never appears is his own: Zhou Yongkang, the formidable Chinese Communist Party leader who served as China's top security official and the de facto boss of its oil industry.

But President Xi Jinping has targeted Mr. Zhou in an extraordinary corruption inquiry, a first for a Chinese party leader of Mr. Zhou's rank, and put his family's extensive business interests in the cross hairs.

Even by the cutthroat standards of Chinese politics, it is a bold maneuver. The finances of the families of senior leaders are among the deepest and most politically delicate secrets in China. The party has for years followed a tacit rule that relatives of the elite could prosper from the country's economic opening, which rewarded loyalty and helped avert rifts in the leadership.

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