A file photo shows Xi inspecting a residential quarter in Beijing in February. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese realty tycoon Ren Zhiqiang is known in the Chinese Communist Party for being an outspoken maverick. Ren, former chief of Beijing Huayuan Group, a state-owned developer, again managed to stoke fresh opposition to Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month with an opinion piece that went viral. In his tirade crucifying the top leader, Ren called Xi a “clown” and likened him to the emperor in the famous story by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.

Ren, a member of the party’s princeling clique whose father served as a deputy commerce minister under Mao Zedong, did not mince his words when deprecating Xi’s handling of the pneumonic plague in a post headlined “An official call to arms against Xi: The clown who insists on wearing the emperor’s new clothes.”

He said it was “a whistle in the wind” for Xi and his underlings to muzzle people’s simmering anger amid the rampant cover-ups and underreporting following the viral outbreak in Wuhan that began at the end of 2019, and that Xi himself deserved a fair share of the blame due to his inaction and measures implemented too late.

“There stands not an emperor in his new clothes but a clown who is stripped of his clothes but still wants to be an emperor,” read the sarcasm-laden piece.

Realty tycoon-turned opinion leader Ren Zhiqiang has been an outspoken critic of Xi Jinping for years. Photo: Weibo
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s poor handling of the epidemic after it broke out in Wuhan at the end of 2019 has exposed him to sharp jabs from his foes within the party. Photo: Facebook via RTI

The article attributed to Ren first appeared on Twitter and in some overseas Chinese media outlets earlier this month. Ren’s own account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, was shut four years ago.

Ren’s call to arms against the “unaccountable Xi,” issued right before the leader flew in to the epidemic epicenter of Wuhan earlier this month, is the latest addition to a string of stinging polemics he has issued over the years since Xi grabbed the mantle of the party and nation in 2012.

Ren, 70, has not been seen since then, and his friends have taken to social media seeking information about his whereabouts. News came out during the past weekend, however, that Ren is being held at a secret prison in a suburb in Beijing and that he may be locked up for no less than 15 years as he has been a recidivist, relentlessly attacking Xi. It is said that his interrogators, dispatched by the party’s commission on discipline inspection, have been given instructions from the top echelon of the central leadership to treat him harshly because he has infuriated the top leader.

Observers say Xi’s fear is that, now that his botched response to the emergence of a highly contagious pathogen in Wuhan has exposed him to sharp jabs from foes within the party, open accusations made by a well-known figure like Ren, a party scion and a businessman-turned opinion leader, may do more harm than broadsides from a dissident, an intellectual or an anti-China firebrand in the West.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected a hospital in Wuhan earlier this month but did not visit any wards. He merely spoke to some doctors and patients via video. Photo: Xinhua

Ren has been in Xi’s bad books since 2016, when he was threatened with suspension of his party membership if he continued to heap derision on Xi’s drive to further tighten his grip on China’s already pliant state media.

In a memoir published in 2013, Ren revealed that Vice-President Wang Qishan, Xi’s trusted lieutenant in the president’s graft-busting war to amass power, was his high-school classmate in Beijing.

Taiwan-based China commentator Paul Lin, a veteran news professional who worked for the Hong Kong Economic Journal and China Times, noted in his column that Ren could be expressing the thoughts of Wang, given the rumors that Wang was “demoted” to his current ceremonial post after heading the party’s high-powered anti-corruption watchdog for years and after he was banned from attending the Politburo’s Standing Committee meetings. 

Lin’s proof is that Wang admitted he was merely helping Xi perform a few “ceremonial diplomatic duties” when receiving the Mexican foreign minister in July last year.

Lin said Wang could have been sidelined by Xi during discussions on the China-United States trade dispute when their ideas diverged, despite Wang’s proven expertise in managing financial and economic risks when running China Construction Bank and China International Capital Co, Ltd and serving as a deputy premier responsible for finance.

Also, people’s call for Wang to return to leading the government during the height of the pandemic has put Xi’s long absence from the public eye and tardy measures in a very unflattering light. Wang parachuted into Beijing as its mayor in 2003 and swiftly led the SARS-ravaged city out of the crisis.

Anticorruption tzar Wang Qishan (L) speaks with Xi Jinping.
Anti-corruption tzar Wang Qishan, who is now China’s vice-president, speaks with Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

There has also been another open letter circulating online since last week suggesting convening an extraordinary plenum of the Politburo to reflect on “Xi’s wrongs” since taking office and decide if he should step down as president, party chief and commander of the military.

The appeal, issued in the wake of the health crisis in China, to take stock of Xi’s performance not only focuses on his role in China’s war on the virus but also on his major policy blunders since 2012, from a trade and economy falling-out with the US to the failure to enhance national recognition among Hongkongers and Taiwanese to foster reunification.

The letter has been relayed by a few members of the princeling faction who are inclined to political reforms and liberalization, including Chen Ping, a publisher and founder of the Hong Kong-based SunTV network, who shared it on WeChat, according to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Radio Taiwan International.

Chen told RTI that it was precisely the lack of press freedom on the mainland that fueled rumormongering and that the anonymous letter spoke volumes about the widespread exasperation felt by a cross-section of party members over Xi’s backtracking on political and economic reforms. Critics who shared the letter included hawkish cadres who had been underwhelmed by Xi’s ability to lead during a testing time, he said.

Read: Emerging from seclusion, Xi addresses health crisis

Join the Conversation


    1. Please Henri… Tell us more words of wisdom..! Btw I already from the beginning said that bringing Xi Jinpeng to the power and as president – would be like “putting the cart in front of the horse”…!

      1. Xi Jinpong is a crybaby despot that needs to be thrown out, and you know it. As much as you want to defend the loser. 😂😂

          1. The majority of rapid test coronavirus test kits supplied by China to Spain and the Czech Republic are faulty, local news outlets reported.

            Meanwhile a Chinese property development company was buying up much needed medical supplies in Jan to sell back to China.

            No wonder the Bumis don’t trsut them.

  1. Clown. I think the term is more befitting for the writer as the so-called botched initial response and the effect of Chinese, both the government and the people, relentless fight against the virus shines over the woeful responses of the west, especially US.

      1. As far as idiot is concerned, I don’t need to look no further than south of it, where the biggest idiot on earth is giving orders to lesser idiots.

        1. Dear Tam, poor chinese hygiene and animal husbandry are the course of this virus ? Agree ? Comrade Xi needs to clean up China !

          1. Well said, but comrade Xi is a loser crybaby despot that got no clue how to handle such a virus.

    1. Lol delusional ch!nky defending the authortarian CCP, they are the ones responsible for all this mess. Please tell us a better joke next time in your effort to glorify commie China. 🤣🤣

      1. If you’re not part of the 50 cent army trolls, better stop. Otherwise, you’ll be like them comrades of the biggest clown in town, Xi Jin Ping.

        1. Yes I dont live in China so that despotic clown Xinnie the Pooh cannot touch me, I have freedom to expose his crybaby loser face unlike the poor oppressed Chinese people.

    2. Terrence Tam, you’re the clown- believing everything the CCP and uncle Xi tells you. Go back to read People’s Daily if unbiased news triggers you so much. Stupid commie.

  2. Interesting. I hope that Ren Zhiqiang is somewhere safe, rather than in some torture chamber in a Beijing suburb.

    It seems to me that this would be a special opportunity for Xi to turn a new leaf, but I have a growing suspicion that it’s not in his character. I agree that he has made a few mistakes that a man of more intellect would not have made. His handling of Hong Kong and Taiwan has reflected badly on China. Perhaps he’s not getting good advice from the people around him. (Do authoritarian leaders even take advice from the people closest to him? Or does Xi just fire them and hire loyal yes-men the way Trump does?)

    Trump should have figured out a way to make Hong Kong and Taiwan allies instead of enemies; show some pride in their independence; and ask them what kind of help China could give them—make win-win deals with them. As it stands, Xi’s dealings with these two important states/provinces/whatever can’t have impressed the countries involved in the BRI.

    1. LOL, you mean china should elect a man that serve american interest like trump serve Putin? Dream on!

      1. China should elect a leader that they want as their leader. But in a communist authortarian one-part state like China, it is impossible for the people to have a voice.

    2. There’s a possibility that factions within the party might be squabbling, China’s politics are like a game of thrones. If you remember what happened with Bo Xilai. Party members in public show unity but behind the scenes there’s always interests and factions. The closest Communist party leader i can compare Xi Jinping to is Nikita Khrushchev. After Stalin passed away he was at the height of the Soviet leadership and purged many rivals like Beria from the party however by the 1960’s factions within the Soviet Leadership grew very weary and nervous of how he was handling the crisis with the west and thought he was too extreme and confrontational. He was the first and only soviet leader to be deposed by his own party for mismanagement. The possibility that Xi Jinping is facing pressure within his own party is not absurd or out of the question. Some members smell blood and they see him in a weakened state. I would say that Xi might be one crisis away from the party totally revolting against him. Despite all the people saying he is “leader for life”, The truth is a bit more nuanced. His rule is predicated on the job he is doing and if his leadership is seen as creating too many missteps then one cannot rule out that Xi might end up falling from grace.

      1. Yep Xinnie the Pooh’s days are the numbered for sure the tyrannical clown will most likely be replaced by another one. Already cracks have developed within the party factions of the CCP. His own party’s top officials are going to gang up on him pretty soon, Xinnie the Pooh will soon face a bad fate. 🤣🤣

  3. If China is so tightly controlled, how can any opinion piece of name calling and so critical of the leadership go viral ?

      1. Ok commie slave, make sure you please your tyrannical masters Xi Jingpingpong and the CCP effectively.

        1. what do you care, we chinese is suffering please don’t save us like you saved the Iraqi, libyan and afghan,

          you lazy cia pinoy dogs think Chinese IQ is yours of 86?

    1. Maybe because commie authortarian CCP can never suppress the oppressed Chinese people for long. They will eventually raise their voice and agree with such pieces like Rens that tell the reality of the despot dictatorial and selfish CCP.

    2. It went viral and Ren is now in prison despite being a CCP insider and a billionaire. That’s the definition of tightly controlled. Trump hasn’t even managed to put anyone critical of him in jail, and he gets called a clown on the daily. That’s democracy. Learn to see the difference you sheep.

  4. It is sad to see this kind of propaganda material misleading the citizens of the West. It is doing a dis-service as a journalist. Hopefully, it is not leading to a mis-calculation in the decision making of Western governments.
    This virus outbreak is a good reminder that human is still facing challenges from nature. The virus is naked – it has no ideology, no religion, no ethnic identity, no sex. It is not politics.

    1. Stop suckling up to the authortarian and tyrannical CCP party of China that is responsible for this mess in the first place. They are the ones that hid the virus and lied about it in the first place.

  5. The piece by Ren Zhiqiang was published “earlier this month.” Now that China seems to gaining control over the disease, I wonder if these ideas have much resonance.

    Perhaps this is just another proof that China does have politics, with factions and individuals squabbling for power just as they do in the West, but within the Party. And more frank discussion than we are led to believe.

    The idea that Mr. Ren would be sent to a “torture chamber” seems like the fever-dream of an anti-CPC propagandist. I think it more likely he would have his obviously open access to publication blocked and maybe be confined to quarters. He is a member of the club, even if he does oppose Mr. Xi. In fact, he is said here to be a member of the same large faction Mr. Xi is said to have come from.

    1. Whatever but commie China is a authortarian one-party state that gives no voice to people to choose their government. No one can deny that it is the tyrannical and despot party CCP responsible for keeping the Chinese people oppressed for so long.

      1. mouth foaming already? we all know how mao even kill/murder 100 million chinese, that why china is a super power today making you a super crybaby here

  6. Frank Chen is an idiot. Every country in the world whether democracies or not have critics of the government.

    By quoting a few guys like Ren and Chen Ping criticising Xi, is sufficient proof that China mishandled the Covid19 crisis.

    Frank wrote : “, Ren…. did not mince his words when deprecating Xi’s handling of the pneumonic plague .” As a realty tycoon, is Ren qualified to advise on management of the crisis ?? He is just an opportunist using the crisis to attack Xi. He is the Chinese version of the realty clown D Trump blaming China for his own mishandling of the Covid19 crisis in the US.

    Chen Ping settled in Hong Kong and founded a TV Network. Of course he would criticise China for ” lack of press freedom ” since his network has been shut out from China. Some guys in Wikipedia eulogised Chen Ping for putting together an opposition in Malaysia to overthrow Najib’s kleptocratic gov’t. I am a Malaysian. This is totally BS and crap. I have not heard of Chen Ping until now. The 92 year old Dr Mahathir built up the successful Malaysian opposition.

    Frank wrote that Paul Lin a Taiwan based commentator said ” …… that Ren could be expressing the thoughts of Wang, given the rumors that Wang was “demoted” to his current ceremonial post ……..Lin’s proof is that Wang admitted he was merely helping Xi perform a few “ceremonial diplomatic duties” when receiving the Mexican foreign minister in July last year.”

    Hahaha, how childish and amateur. Just three words ” ceremonial diplomatic duties ” is sufficient proof that Wang is unhappy about his position.

    But Nikkei Asia Review is more realistic when it wrote in Sept.2019 :” TOKYO — China’s Vice President Wang Qishan, a close aide to President Xi Jinping and the former enforcer of the president’s anti-corruption campaign, is believed to have played a key role in the recent developments in Hong Kong…..It was against this backdrop that the “fire brigade chief” Wang Qishan headed south. It is unclear whether he met with Lam during his Guangdong stay.”

    Frank wrote : ” Also, people’s call for Wang to return to leading the government during the height of the pandemic….”

    Frank should show proof that the peoples are calling for Wang to return to leading the government. As Vice-President, Wang is already leading the government in capacities not connected to the the pandemic.

    So far, the Chinese government, working together at all levels, have been successful in managing the crisis. The successful results have been widely acknowledged by WHO and medical experts around the world, Ren is not qualified to pass judgement neither is Frank Chen.

    If no one in China criticises the government, Frank would shout : ” All the Chinese people are zombies and in China, mind control is total”. When the few critics emerge for their own agenda, Frank says the Chinese government is a total failure.

    1. I know it is important for you the prove your loyalty to the authortarian and tyrannical CCP by writing such long pieces. Just so you know that dictators never care for the people, so you are wasting your time. Some day you could also be picked up like Ren was if you live in China, so be careful. 😂😂

    2. Haha another communist clown trying to justify the existence of the CCP. You guys are pathetic, wake the hell up already instead of sucking Xi’s balls. He’s never gonna do anything for you.

    3. But my Dear Chan. If you are Malaysian, do you not feel upset that you are a 2nd class citizen, and don’t you think China should do something about it ?

        1. Mr Hoong,

          You pay taxes and prove loyalty to your country but you still cannot choose your god damn government lol. That is the difference between an authoritarian one-party commie state and a democracy that gives a voice to the common people.

          1. Who says I cannot choose my own government ?? No wonder you have been muttering gibberish all along, living in delusion.

            Recently we have overthrown the old gov’t.

          2. Mr Hoong,

            Are you a rich businessman or CCP insider by any chance, then maybe you might have a say in choosing your comrade (master). Otherwise the poor common Chinese people have been oppressed for so long in a commie one-party state, that they dont even have a voice and have never tasted the freedom of a pluralistic democracy.

  7. Mr. Salil,

    I am never loyal to the CCP. I am only loyal to facts. Obviously, you do not prefer facts.

    I have doubted whether the Chinese government construction of high and long bridges in mountainous areas can provide safe passage for vehicles. And whether the rapid expansion of 5G with extensive usage of handphones for payments without cash can be risky to health. There is too little discussion about his aspect.

    1. Mr Hoong,

      Oh, so I dont ‘prefer’ the facts, do I? The only fact that I care about right now is the failure of the authoritarian and tyrannical CCP’s failure in handling of this virus. They hid and lied about it for so long putting lives around the world at risk. Or maybe the commie CCP govt did it on purpose to create havoc around the world, considering that they put their power over the people. This is the only fact that appears bitter for you.

        1. The WHO like the UN is currently commie China’s dog. They are scared of despot clown Xi Jingpingpong boycotting them. They will say everything to please commie China. I wouldn’t take whatever they say at face value. World on the other hand is not stupid and knows the reality. 🤣🤣

          1. Yeah, also the Israeli doctor is a commie dog. In fact all the multilateral institutions are commie dogs and US is the loser . Hahahaha, wonderful.

          2. Mr Hoong,

            Nope that Israeli doctor is only following the orders WHO are giving him lol. These multilateral institutions like UN are hypocritical will soon smell the coffee when countries start to boycott them and commie China’s economy is hit hard beyond repair haha. Then they wont be sucking up to commie China as much and will be running to the US. Dont be under the delusion that commie China has this easy, they will soon see very bad days.

          3. cia dogs are desperate, not beed to entertain these loser HKer rioter or wacko christian. china marching forward, they are crying louder

    2. But my Dear Chan. Most of these projects you mentioned are vanity projects with no economic benefit apart from sending debt levels ballooning. While that is fine if it’s the BRI and the debt is someone else’s, in this case it’s CCP debt.

        1. CCP slave defending his despot master Xi Jingpingpong clown. Please keep going illiterate Ch!nky commie. 😂😂

          1. Ok brainwashed commie slave, keep at it so you can continue to please comrade Xinnie the Pooh and tyrant CCP. 🤣🤣

        2. ‘Chinese government construction of high and long bridges in mountainous areas can provide safe passage for vehicles. ‘

          Stick to the story Dear Comrade

          1. Mr Hoong,

            You are really ceasing to make sense you CCP bot, now take a rest with the propaganda. 😂😂

      1. ballooning hmmm, for insfrastructure that benefit the people lives against dropping democracy bombs for oil, at least china don;t have crumbing road.

        i am from malaysia agreed 100 percent, by the way china great mean chinese are more respected by the malay people, nice try, you think chinese here is bananas?

  8. Seriously, where are these crazy ideas coming from? To trust a tycoon?
    I do not get it. China’s response — being the first country hit by the epidemic — in retrospect was amazing. The software applications for surveillance of the epidemic is state of the art. AI use in identifying everything from testing results correlated to isolation measures, and tracking of contacts.

    Why do not we examine the mess in Europe and US?

    1. Yeah true Bianca, the response was ‘amazing’ they pretty much locked down all provinces being the authoritarian and tyrannical state they are, plus they were able to control oppressed Chinese people in an ‘amazing’ manner.

      1. ha ha ha trump just make you look bad.

        meaning XI is bad, trump is and idiot. being chinese mean no idiot to lead. insulting, however dogs will still follow their idiot owner, down are train to obey

    2. Yeah their response was amazing: silencing the whistleblower and covering up the virus was a world class response!
      You blind communist supports really are mentally challenged.

      1. Which whistle blower they silenced ?? Oh that Dr Li WenLiang whom you are now worshipping. He was an opthalmologist who, on 20th December posted on Wechat there was SARS in Wuhan without doing any tests. He was an opthalmologist not an infectious disease expert. He was warned not to spread rumours which can cause panic.

        As a Doctor, he should know better that infectious disease need to be confirmed by tests and reported to the authorities which he didn’t.

        1. Mr Hoong,

          Keep sucking despot master Xi Jingpingpong’s balls. I almost feel sorry for brainwashed commie birdbrains like you, who continue to please and suck up to the totalitarian regime of the power-hungry CCP while the common Chinese people die. Please keep at it, ultimately you dont want to end up in a dark isolated prison cell like Ren Zhiqiang was. 😅😅

          1. Mr Hoong,

            Keep going with the commie propaganda you CCP bot, dont worry about my character and just make sure you stay safe in China. Dont want to be picked up by the transgender CCP police for saying something wrong against the perfect CCP government. 😅😅

    1. Haha, repeating the same letter mentioned by Frank Chen in the Asiatimes article which I have rebutted. Can you get something new for a change instead of flogging a dead horse ??

      1. Mr Hoong,

        Awwww suck it up CCP slave, you aint the most important man in the world that news sites will begin posting articles that suit your propaganda narrative praising the despotic CCP government. Now dont complain and go read the People’s Daily, you commie clown.

  9. Mr. Hoong, don’t bother reasoning with these intellectually challenged goons. They are brainwashed to the point of thinking of themselves as “freedom fighters.” Just like the rest of terrorists, they only understand violence.

    1. Ok illiterate commie sheep Jon while you continue to dance to tunes of your despotic masters Xi Jingpongpong and the CCP like a slave, intelligent people who understand the meaning of liberty and freedom will expose the crybaby face of your power-hungry masters. Now look who is talking about being brainwashed and terrorism, where the oppressed Chinese people have got no freedom for themselves you hypocrite lol. Terrorists are dealt with violence even in democracies but commie countries are clearly a failure, China included.

    2. Now make sure you read the people’s daily next time if unbiased non-propaganda articles get on your nerves lol commie slave.

  10. Reports are that 21 million Cell phone accounts have been cancelled in China the past 3 months. Since you need one to carry out most of daily life, is it likely many more have died and the CCP has just covered it. One percent (the often cited death rate of covid19 in China) of 21million is 210,000 dead. The question is has the CUP actually successful or were we all lied to yet again?

    1. sorry,现在全都开始复工了。是不是感觉好失望啊?


      另外我告诉你基本常识好了 CCP != CHINA。 你会认为 CCP == CHINA 完全是偏见的结果……

      1. Well said comrade, 4 social credit points for you.
        But I’m afraid we can’t find you a gf, they all have white fever.

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